In the 1960s, the television show The Fugitive was hugely popular. This lead to a rather nostalgic modernisation in 1993, when Harrison Ford took on the role of the eponymous fugitive, Dr. Richard Kimble. After seeing Under Siege, Ford decided that he wanted to work with the director Andrew Davis, who he thought could bring the thrilling action film to life. This proved a great choice and The Fugitive was a huge commercial success, taking just over $368m off of a budget of $44m and earned Tommy Lee Jones a Best Supporting Actor Oscar at the 66th Academy Awards.
Dr. Richard Kimble (Ford) returns home from work in Chicago one night to find his wife being attacked and eventually killed by a one-armed man. Due to a combination of lack of evidence relating to a break-in, his wife’s big life insurance package and a misunderstood emergency call, he is convicted of first degree murder. While being transported to ˜Death Row’ Kimble takes advantage of his bus crashing to escape and goes on the run from the US Marshalls that begin following him, lead by the tenacious Deputy Marshall Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones).
Inspired by both the original TV show and a host of action films in the late 1980s and early 90s, The Fugitive is something of a hybrid. One part action film, one part thriller and all fun. It has two fantastic central performances in Ford and Lee Jones, each doing what they can to escape and catch one another. In fact without them, it never would have caught the imagination of the public as it did, leading to Lee Jones’ well deserved Academy Award win.
The simple forces driving each of the main characters: Law vs. justice are wonderfully played out in The Fugitive. Gerard is relentless in his goal of catching Kimble, while all he wants is to prove his innocence. The Fugitive cleverly holds back from having the two men meet face-to-face until about half way through the film, and when they do the dialogue fizzes and crackles with tension. This is the defining moment of the whole film and it’s so powerful and memorable that it almost doesn’t recover. The second half, with the fugitive returning to the scene of the crime to prove his innocence is still good, but not as action-packed as the scintillating first half.
In many ways The Fugitive is a standard cat-and-mouse thriller, but with two heavyweight performances at its heart, some sizzling dialogue I didn’t kill my wife I don’t care! and a director accustomed to face-paced action, it becomes a thoroughly well-rounded viewing experience.