The Fugitive: 20th Anniversay Edition (Blu-ray)

September 5, 2013 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I know I say this often, but good lord – has it really been two whole 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 in Hollywood).   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 two 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.  Granted, at the time, the movie was only a few years old when the first wave of DVD’s rolled out (circa 1997) and the fledgling Blu-ray format was still in the midst of a war with HD-DVD and we know that turned out.  There was some concern as to the transfer used for this new 20th Anniversary Edition.  Let me put all your worries and fears to rest – it’s the same transfer used for the previous 2006 Blu-ray but it looks a lot better. I don’t know if they cleaned it up or not, but the previous MPEG-2 codec has been replaced with an AVC HD image that does justice to the film.  Having said that, the detail does look improved and with a very fine amount of grain over the film, it adds to the realism of the movie.  Colors are a bit on the muted side, but then again this is winter in  Chicago, so it stands to reason that colors wouldn’t exactly pop.  Overall it’s a very nice-looking transfer and the best I’ve seen on any format (I’ve seen this on VHS, LaserDisc, DVD, HD-DVD and the first Blu-ray).  A fine effort by Warner.

Audio: How’s it sound?

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.  This new DTS HD Master Audio mix is noticeably better than the previous Dolby Digital mix that occupied the first  Blu-ray.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The improved audio and video might be enough for a lot of folks to head and and buy this new Blu-ray.  Thankfully Warner has included all of the supplements from the previous Blu-ray and has added two new ones.

  • “The Fugitive: Thrill of the Chase” – New to the 20th Anniversary Edition is this retrospective documentary that 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.
  • The Fugitive TV Pilot (2000)” – Back in 2000, The Fugitive was set to be a television series. As we know, based on the strength of the pilot, some shows get picked up by the network and others don’t.  This was one of the ones that didn’t.
  • “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 some 12 years ago.
  • “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.
  • “Trailer” – Self-explanatory.

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