Based on the 1960s TV series, The Fugitive is a deft, action-packed chase movie rife with star power, impressive stunts, and clever plotting. Harrison Ford steps into the role of surgeon Richard Kimble, wrongfully convicted of killing his wife. After seizing the opportunity to escape from a prison bus, Kimble finds himself on the lam and desperate to find his wife’s real killer (a mysterious one armed man) and clear his name. Hot on his trail is U.S. Marshall Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones), an equally intelligent foe determined to bring Kimble back in. Though he’s not especially interested in the whole “real killer” issue, Gerard does take the law very seriously. Kimble was convicted and therefore must go to prison, and in his own way, Gerard is right. The two are worthy rivals, and even as you root for Kimble to get away, you can’t help understanding and respecting Gerard’s position.
On first viewing, the movie is a taut thrill ride of, “what’s going to happen next?” There’s a certain excitement in watching Kimble elude capture by the skin of his teeth at every turn, but eventually, you know that he makes it. You know how he makes it. And beyond that, there’s very little left. How many times can you watch a spectacular train crash and still have it be spectacular? What the movie lacks is heart, and the fault lies primarily with Harrison Ford. He may be an intelligent everyman, and intellectually we root for him, but the movie is long. At 130 minutes, you really need to be able to make a human connection if you’re going to go back and revisit a movie again and again (or even remember it, for that matter).
It’s no surprise that Tommy Lee Jones walked away with the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and the subsequent sequel (spin-off?) U.S. Marshalls – he’s a badass. As for Richard Kimble? Who cares? Ford’s typical aloofness makes him a stoic protagonist, and if he can’t get worked up about his situation, why should we? This is a successful professional who has lost his wife and now faces prison time for something he didn’t do. Where’s the grief and bewilderment? As he doggedly works to find the one armed man, there’s rarely any indication that he has a personal stake in the matter. Did he love his wife dearly, or is “wife” just the title of someone who, by definition, is important in your life? Is he bereft over the loss, or does he just know that death and murder (especially when pinned on you) are significant, somewhat troubling events. He approaches his situation from a strictly logical viewpoint, and as an audience, we have no choice but to do the same. The Fugitive is a good movie, but again, this is something you know, not something you feel.
The Fugitive: 20th Anniversary Blu-ray includes the new featurette “The Fugitive: Thrill of the Chase, an introduction by Andrew Davis and Harrison Ford, commentary by Tommy Lee Jones and Andrew Davis, and the pilot episode of the 2000 WB TV series The Fugitive starring Tim Daly. The behind-the-scenes documentaries “On The Run with The Fugitive” and “Derailed: Anatomy of a Train Wreck” are also included, as is the original theatrical trailer. It’s a nice blend of new and vintage extras, making the upgrade worthwhile.