Based on the 1950s prison break television serial, director Andrew Davis’ The Fugitive (1993) is an exhilarating action/adventure update knocked together with all the thrills of a classic chase caper.
This one is about Dr. Richard Kimball (Harrison Ford), a highly respected Chicago surgeon who returns home to discover that his wife, Helen (Sela Ward) has been brutally murdered and that the killer, a one armed man named Sykes (Andreas Katsulas) is still lurking about the corridors of their fashionable brownstone.
Unhappy circumstance for Kimball that Police Detectives Kelly (Ron Dean) and Rosetti (Joseph F. Kosala) immediately suspect that Kimball is their man. Wrongfully convicted of the crime and sentenced to death by lethal injection, Kimball is given an unlikely escape route after the bus load of prisoners en route to their final destination is involved in a rollover accident and side-swiped by an oncoming train.
Determined to prove his innocence, Kimball stitches up his wounds, assumes various aliases and contacts fellow surgeon/friend, Dr. Charles Nichols (Jeroen Krabbe) to help him in his exoneration.Enter U.S. Marshall, Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones); a shoot from the hip government agent who thinks more like a bounty hunter. Determined to bring Kimball to justice – though he confesses that his escapee’s guilt-or innocence is of no consequence – Gerard launches into an epic man hunt in a feeble attempt to lock down of the city of Chicago and apprehend his suspect.
In the resulting game of cat and mouse, Kimball narrowly evades Gerard and his entourage on several occasions, including two set piece action sequences; the first - and, what has to be considered the film's most exhilarating and iconic set piece - Kimball's jump from Cheoah Dam; the second - a nail-biting chase sequence that begins at Chicago's county lock up and ends with a stealthy pursuit through Chicago's St. Patrick's Day parade.
What Richard quickly learns from his on foot investigations is that Dr. Nichols stood to gain great profits from his endorsement of Provasic, an experimental prescription drug that Kimball was boycotting because of its suspect side effects. Confronting Nichols as he lies about his findings at a convention of investors, Nichols is forced to flee the scene, but not before he and Kimball face off one last time for a showdown that will reveal once and for all Kimball's innocence to Gerard.
Director Davis certainly knows his way around this sort of ‘catch me if you can’ scenario. What might have degenerated into a series of vignettes loosely strung together is instead an overwhelmingly intimate portrait of fear stirred to heroism as one man’s quest to prove his innocence becomes a state wide hunt for truth.Harrison Ford’s laconic good nature and understated performances is a perfect foil for Tommy Lee Jones' smug lawman; the two pros sparing off one another with great aplomb. Although the taut screenplay by Jeb Stuart, David Twohy and Roy Huggins sets most of the action in rural Illinois, much of the film was shot in the Smoky Mountains in Jackson County, NC.
Visitors to the state can still take a bus tour to see the site where Kimball's prison bus met with its full scale train derailment (an impressive sequence in the film to say the least). North Carolina's Cheoah Dam was also utilized for Kimball's seemingly suicidal escape jump, although for scenes leading up to that climactic moment Chicago's freight tunnels substituted for the dam.
In the final analysis, The Fugitive is as satisfying as it remains a viscerally dark and tempestuous struggle of wills between two men who are actually on the same side of the law.It would be gratifying if this reviewer could say that Warner Home Video’s Blu-Ray offering bests the standard edition DVD - gratifying, though untrue. In fact, in comparing the images side by side, very little has been achieved by way of a visible upgrade.
Yes, the Blu-Ray's higher bit rate results in an image that is tighter, with slightly more detail and marginally truer flesh tones. However, there are still sequences on the Blu-Ray which are very soft. Worse, the Blu-Ray contains several glaring moments of edge enhancement and shimmering of fine details - both digital shortcomings that the standard DVD NEVER suffers from.
The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital and delivers an engaging spread across all channels. Extras are all direct imports from the standard DVD and include a rather meandering audio commentary by director Davis, an introduction to the film which is just as pointless, and two very informative featurettes on the making of the film. If you already own the standard DVD of this film, this Blu-Ray is NOT recommended!
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)