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   THE FUGITIVE (1993) 

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CAST
Harrison Ford
Tommy Lee Jones
Sela Ward
Joe Pantoliano
Jeroen Krabbe
Julianne Moore
Andreas Katsulas
Daniel Roebuck
L. Scott Caldwell
Tom Wood

DIRECTED BY
Andrew Davis

PURCHASE


DVD




Time: 127 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Thriller

Won Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Jones). Nominated for Cinematography, Sound Effects Editing, Film Editing, Original Score, Sound And Best Picture.


I remember seeing this film in the theater and being blown away. Being a huge Harrison Ford fan probably helped matters, though his career has been hit and miss over the last decade. I wasn't really sure how they would bring new life to such a well-known story, but I was willing to give Ford the benefit of the doubt. Having recently seen this film again on DVD, I don't know what I was so worried about. The story may be good – just enough mystery to keep you interested, not enough to be confusing – but it's the acting, by Ford and Jones, that makes this the 4-star feature that it is. These two dynamic actors compliment each other perfectly throughout this cat-and-mouse action/drama. Jones has the showier role, but it's Ford's undaunted tenacity to prove his innocence that moves the action forward. If either were not up to the task, this would be a very one-sided affair. Thankfully it's not.

You'd have to have been living under a rock not to know the basic premise of this movie. However, let me sum up. Dr. Richard Kimble (Ford) is convicted of brutally murdering his rich and beautiful wife (Ward), though he claims he's innocent and that the killer was actually a one-armed man. Since this intruder could not be found, the Chicago police department concludes that he must have killed her for her money, even though he is a prominent vascular surgeon. This is the film's weakest theory. In any case, while being transported to a federal prison where he would be put to death, a horrifying accident gives him his freedom and the opportunity to prove his innocence. Unfortunately, his escape isn't a blessing to the government, who send the U.S. Marshalls out to recapture him. They can't have convicted felons meandering about the countryside. Samuel Gerard (Jones) is in charge of the manhunt, an uncompromising fellow who doesn't care about the logistics of the case, just that he gets his man. Kimble, having nothing to lose and everything to gain, manages to stay one step ahead of Gerard and his team, while attempting to find the man who destroyed his life and the reason why.


"If you want help, gentlemen, you've come to the wrong man. Richard is innocent and you'll never find him. He's too smart."

Pretty powerful stuff, huh? If this was only a chase film, it would not be have as interesting as it is. Those sequences are the film's bread and butter and are certainly entertaining and exciting, but we need to get to know the characters and their motivations in order to care about the outcome. It's the quiet moments of the film that make it great. Where the inherent decency and quick intelligence of these two characters come into focus. Kimble takes a plethora of chances, coming face-to-face with his pursuer on several nail-biting occasions. However, as much as Gerard wants to end this thing. Kimble wants it more. He knows, despite evidence to the contrary, that Gerard is his only hope of coming out of this situation a free man. Another main character of this film is the city of Chicago. It goes to show if you're trying to disappear, go somewhere that has millions of hiding places and where being one of the crowd is a major asset.

There are several points of contention I have with the believability of this story, but overall, it's one of most well-constructed action films in recent memory. I understand that the police had no signs of forced entry and no suspect other than Kimble, but to convict a man, who's rich in his own right and has had no prior claims of violence in his past, without giving him some benefit of the doubt is downright ridiculous. I guess the evidence was stockpiled against him, but it seemed like the police didn't really bother to look for someone else. A situation O.J. can probably relate to, though it didn't seem to hurt him in the end. Certainly, since we know the truth it immediately puts us on Kimble's side, getting us to root for him from the get go. Otherwise, there'd be no story. He also appears to be the luckiest son of a bitch on the planet, surviving bus accidents, train wrecks, and 100-story high falls virtually unscathed, like they were a stroll in the park. It just goes to show you how far adrenaline and fear can take you.

Lest you think this film is all about the acting, don't be alarmed. The set pieces from beginning to end are well-choreographed stunts that literally take your breath away. Done before the advent of CGI, most of the crashes, jumps and chases are all created the old-fashioned way, which doesn't hurt this film one bit. The most amazing moment has to be the train crashing into the bus at the beginning of the film. The only thing obviously masked in is Ford jumping from the bus right before the train connects. Otherwise, it's one magnificent piece of chaos and devastation. A moment that burns itself into your brain forever. As does Ford's high dive off a dam, though more because it's a total shock than the stunt itself. As the film goes on, it relies more on the suspense of placing these two adversaries as close as possible without actually being together, than outlandish stunts, which draws you even deeper into the conflict. The finale is a bit over-the-top, especially for a film that relies on mostly non-physical resolutions, but it works without being too obnoxious.

Despite being mostly an action flick, THE FUGITIVE manages to create memorable characters and intriguing relationships. Jones gives an amazing performance, worthy of all the awards he gathered. Samuel Gerard could have been just another wise-cracking, arrogant prick, but Jones made him a worthy and honorable opponent, as well as damn funny. The first time I saw this film Ford's performance left me a little flat, but on second viewing, it's clear his subtle, unrelenting persona is the heart of the picture. If you're looking for a film that will engage you mentally and make your heart pound with excitement, this is the one to watch. An intelligent action movie is hard to come by these days, so you'll probably appreciate this effort even more. I know I did.



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