THE FUGITIVE is a near perfect film to me. The kind of product that sadly just does not get made in Hollywood today. Now, one gets either a ‘dark and gritty’ experience OR pure escapist comic book fantasy. Occasionally, a director will try and fuse tones /genres but it generally just reflects a muddled compromise behind the scenes and that blurs the film’s efficacy.
By contrast, 1993’s THE FUGITIVE is a genuinely ‘grown up’ thriller that nonetheless manages to be fun as a ‘ride’ in action and adventure. A rich and literate script takes us from a truly shocking opening through a Courtroom miscarriage of justice and series of truly stunning set pieces and chase sequences that punctuate a forensic detective process, character clash and finally a corporate Pharma conspiracy.
Every possible angle covered. Every taste catered for. And yet a coherent whole, in which each department from technical to stunts and editing are flawlessly professional. Above all? The performances are excellent. Harrison Ford (yet again getting a part initially intended for Alec Baldwin!) begins in an unflattering beard and loud waistcoat: the typically eccentric surgeon.
As he is arrested and sentenced for a crime he did not commit, Ford’s Dr Richard Kimble subtly divests himself of all those features and becomes a blank man on the run and on a mission, doing good where he can en route. Though based on the television show of same name, this is very much its own thing and a perfect platform for Ford, then enjoying an early 90s, post Indiana Jones streak of great choices (along with his two JACK RYAN pictures). And he is paired with /against TOMMY LEE JONES as Sam Gerard, in an Oscar winning turn that even got him his own spin off sequel. Jones begins the film as an antagonist of sorts but by the close, viewers care about him as much as Ford’s Dr Kimble and so began a second wind for Jones’ career, playing mentors and action men as well as his trademark baddies, with the character actor becoming a movie star at last.
Never one to rely solely on my own view though? Let’s defer to our great ally: NICK CLEMENT. The chase begins...
Classy action-dramas like The Fugitive are a tough breed to find these days on movie screens; it seems nearly insane that this film was nominated for Best Picture in 1993, not because it’s not fully awesome, but rather, this genre would NEVER be paid attention to by members of the Academy in our current cinematic climate.
Harrison Ford delivered a quintessential movie star performance, eliciting sympathy right from the outset, and allowing the audience to embark on his journey with him, rather than feeling like a spectator. There’s a great supporting cast including Sela Ward, Joe Pantoliano, Jeroen Krabbe, Julianne Moore, and Andreas Katsulas. The fantastic Tommy Lee Jones of course won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, the film was a massive financial success, and a decent pseudo-sequel following Jones’ character was released in 1998 (US MARSHALS: Featuring a young Robert Downey Junior).
The Fugitive is easily the best film that filmmaker Andrew Davis ever directed, as it was extremely well-crafted on a technical level with ace cinematography by Michael Chapman and a terrific score by James Newton Howard, while Jeb Stuart and David Twohy’s smart and logical screenplay never went too far over the top, instead playing it realistic yet exciting, and always making sure we cared deeply about Ford and his paranoid plight.
Apparently, when the film was in various stages of development, Michael Douglas, Kevin Costner, Nick Nolte, and Alec Baldwin were all considered for the Dr. Kimble role, while Gene Hackman and Jon Voight were both thought of for US Marshal Gerard. The film is notable for extensive location shooting in and around the city of Chicago and in the state of North Carolina. “I didn’t kill my wife!” “I don’t care!”
ABOUT NICK CLEMENT:
After spending close to a decade working in Hollywood, Nick Clement has taken his passion for film and transitioned into a blogger and amateur reviewer, tackling old, new, and far flung titles without a care for his cerebral cortex. His latest venture: Podcasting Them Softly, finds him tackling new ground as an entertainment guru, and along with his spirited partner Frank Mengarelli, are attracting some diverse and exciting talent to their site.
Some of Nick‘s favorite filmmakers include Michael Mann, Martin Scorsese, Tony Scott, Oliver Stone, David Fincher, Werner Herzog, Terrence Malick, and Billy Wilder, and he’s a huge proponent of the “31 Flavors of Cinema” school of thought. Favorite films include The Tree of Life, Goodfellas, Heat, Back to the Future, Fitzcarraldo, Zoolander, Babe, and Enter the Void.