In a decade where Hollywood was adapting literally every classic show from the sixties, regardless of the format, it’s still surprising they not only got the formula right for “The Fugitive” but turned it in to an Oscar Caliber thriller. Twenty years later, “The Fugitive” is still a tense and gripping adaptation that’s set the template for many future on the run films. Harrison Ford is no stranger to films where he’s put at wit’s end by an unforeseen circumstance, but as Richard Kimble, the casting is brilliant.
Ford possesses the proper balance of distress and turmoil to really allow audiences to empathize with his journey to find the murderer of his wife, and bring her memory to justice, once and for all. Teaming him against Tommy Lee Jones is yet another brilliant move, as Jones who was always a consummate character actor, was essentially given a new life blood as an actor with his role as Samuel Gerard, the by the book US Marshall who leads the man hunt for Kimble. Jones as Gerard is the perfect antagonist for the film’s progression of events. He’s not an antagonist chasing Kimble out of spite, vengeance, or evil. He’s just a man doing his job and will stop at nothing to ensure his success as a US Marshall, despite the claims Kimble makes toward his own innocence. “The Fugitive” isn’t just an action thriller about Kimble uncovering clues to the person that framed him for the brutal murder, but gradually transforms in to a clever and often incredible cat and mouse gane between Kimble and Gerard, who leads his own team to find Kimble.
Even when clues are being uncovered to Kimble’s role in the crimes, Gerard stops at nothing to find him. Twenty years later, “The Fugitive” is still an action film heavyweight and purely excellent masterpiece as director Andrew Davis brings the best out of his entire cast, and offers some of the most gripping and intense action set pieces ever filmed. From the leap off the water fall, to the wonderful climactic stand off, Davis never allows the audience to catch their breath. Davis leads us along with a steady pace of compelling drama, engrossing mystery, and a pay off that works wonders, while staging scenes that haven’t lost their luster in two decades, most notably the humongous train crash that allows Kimble to go free and on the run.
Director Davis is able to build such a unique and complex thriller, that all essence of the original television show is lost while the movie deviates from the original series becoming its own animal. This allows the adaptation to stand on its own two feet as a powerful genre entry that competently keeps audiences on baited breath through Kimble’s entire process to find the murderer of his wife. Harrison Ford’s performance is a marvel, as we’re able to feel his immense rage following the murder, and his relentless pursuit to prove his innocence while also hoping to avenge his wife, in the process. He’s put through the wringer, and even toils with other people’s lives, but always keeps a code of ethics by his side, even when at the end of his rope. “The Fugitive” is a film that’s held up immaculately and will live on for decades as an action masterpiece you have to watch again and again.
The 20th Anniversary release features two new extras, along with old extras from the previous release. “The Fugitive: Thrill of the Chase” is a ninety minute retrospective on the film and its production. It garner an immense list of respective interviews including Stars Ford and Jones, along with Joe Pantoliano, and the crew including co-editor Don Brochuy, producer Arnold Kopelson, and film critic Kenneth Turan. There’s also an interview with Bob Herzberg the author of “The FBI and the Movies.” For fans looking to completely soak in the experience, there’s the pilot episode of the 2000 CBS reboot of “The Fugitive.”
The first episode of the solid short lived series stars Tim Daly as Kimble, with Mykelti Williamson playing Gerard. This new series attempt follows the mold of the original television series with occasional callbacks to the hit film, and features the formula of the old series where Kimble sets out to find the one armed man while helping those he meets on his mission, along the way. It’s a solid reboot with Daly and Williamson providing great chemistry, it’s sad the series never panned out. There’s the introduction from Andrew Davis and Harrison Ford, a commentary with Andrew Davis and Tommy Lee Jones, the twenty three minute “On the Run with the Fugitive,” the anatomy of the train wreck, and the film’s original theatrical trailer.
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