Plot: What’s it about?
I know I say this often, but good lord – has it really been three decades since The Fugitive first came to theaters? As clichéd as it sounds, where does the time go? The summer of 1993 was a good one at the box office, we had some early hits with the controversial Indecent Proposal and then there was that little dinosaur movie called Jurassic Park. Clint Eastwood tried to save the President’s life In the Line of Fire while Tom Cruise portrayed Mitch McDeere in the first (of what would be many) adaptation of John Grisham’s The Firm. But by the time August rolled around, all of the “big” movies had kind of come and gone. That was, until Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones took center stage. Ford, a well-established action star, didn’t have his trusty whip and fedora. He didn’t have George Lucas. Instead, this was one of the first feature-length films based off a television series of the same name (a trend that’s become all too common nowadays). A wrongfully accused man. A persistent law enforcement official. The chase began.
Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) is a respected Vascular Surgeon. He and his wife (Sela Ward) have just returned from a benefit and Kimble walks up the stairs to find his wife murdered. The assailant got away, but Kimble claims a man with one arm was the killer. He’s tried and convicted and found guilty of murdering his wife. On the way to prison, the bus is involved in an accident with an 11 on a scale of 1-10 train wreck. Kimble escapes. In steps Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) and his entourage. Their goal is simple – find Dr. Richard Kimble. Kimble and Gerard play a cat and mouse game that sees the two narrowly miss one another. However Kimble is using what little free time he has to try and find the man who killed his wife. The clock is ticking and it’s only a matter of time before Gerard and company catch Kimble. Can he solve the puzzle in time or is he doomed to pay for a crime he didn’t commit?
The Fugitive works because it never once tries to be something it’s not. It’s a taught, well-crafted thriller that doesn’t let up. The performances are outstanding and it gave Tommy Lee Jones an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The film was also nominated for Best Picture (it lost to Schindler’s List) and amassed nearly $200 million at the domestic box office and bear in mind these were 1993 dollars. The Fugitive is proof that you don’t need cell phones, bombs or any other gimmick that somehow gets people to the movies. It’s a great, solid script with performances to match. Looking back over the past few decades, the film has aged pretty well. Simply put, it’s just as good now as it was then. Now that’s the sign of a good movie.
Video: How’s it look?
The Fugitive has had the benefit of being among the first standard DVD and first Blu-ray’s that Warner released. But even that’s been a quarter of a century. This 4K release coincides with the film’s thirtieth anniversary and, as such, we’re treated (and I mean that literally) to a new 4K transfer that blows any and all previous versions out of the water. First and foremost, we finally get a proper 1.85:1 HEVC 4K image. The previous editions have all been open matted at 1.78:1. Looking at the image as a whole, though, it’s indicative of what we’d expect for a 4K film. Any and all traces of grain are gone, detail has been improved and the HDR gives us some deeper blacks as well as some more defined whites. This film isn’t known for bursting with color, it’s always been a bit muted, but it seems to have a more cinematic look to it with this new offering. Flesh tones are warm and natural.
For those wondering, there is a sequence that shows a cameraman (just after the train wreck) looking down at Harrison Ford’s character. It’s been a long standing easter egg. This error made the final cut of the movie and Warner even made a featurette about it for their 2001 DVD release. At any rate, I can confirm that the crew member is not in this cut of the film.
Audio: How’s it sound?
I’d have to imagine that if you’re going to have one of the best examples of sound in cinema, a Dolby Atmos track would be a no-brainer. And, thankfully, that’s what we’ve got on this version. If you set aside the amazing train wreck sequence, The Fugitive still excels in the audio department. Simply put, James Newton Howard’s score is one of the best and most recognizable out there. Dialogue sounds rich and crisp, surrounds are used with great effect and the front stage is constantly inundated with the majority of the mix. And I can’t mention this mix without the train wreck (I know I mentioned in passing a few sentences back), but with all the examples of surround I’ve heard this consistently ranks as one of the best. It was done with a real train and you can tell the difference when you hear it. It’s just that good.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The improved audio and video might be enough for a lot of folks to head and and buy this disc. Though no new supplements have been included, everything from the 2013 Blu-ray has made the cut here with the exception of the pilot of the short-lived 2000 televsion series. So if you’re looking for a reason to hold onto your previous Blu-ray, you’ve got one.
- The Fugitive: Thrill of the Chase – This retrospective documentary brings back Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, director Andrew Davis and a few others associated with the movie. The producers also chime in as they all reflect on the film, its success and long-lasting appeal.
- Introduction by Andrew Davis, Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones – The remainder of the features were found on the previous DVD and Blu-ray releases. This introduction is just that, a brief sequence with the director and the two leads as they “welcome” us to the movie.
- Audio Commentary – Director Andrew Davis and Oscar-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones give a pretty insightful commentary track for the film. Sadly Ford isn’t really a part of it and I’d have liked them to record a new track for this disc. This is the same commentary track that first appeared on the Special Edition DVD.
- On the Run with The Fugitive – Clocking in at just over twenty minutes, this is somewhat dated, but nevertheless informative look at the shoot, the script and the various locales used in the film.
- Derailed: Anatomy of a Train Wreck – The Signature scene in the movie was the train wreck sequence and we get pretty much all we wanted to know about it here. They literally had one shot at this so there was no shortage of cameras and angles. Obviously it paid off.
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
The Fugitive is one of the best action/adventure/thrillers in the past several decades. I’ve seen it countless times. With this new 4K offering, we’ve got an upgraded picture, an amazing soundtrack with Dolby Atmos and enough of the legacy supplements to easily warrant a purchase. Simply put, this should be a part of everyone’s film collection.