The Fugitive (1993)
June 7, 2021 12:09 AM - Subscribe

Dr. Richard Kimble, unjustly accused of murdering his wife, must find the real killer while being the target of a nationwide manhunt led by a seasoned U.S. Marshal.

Wrongfully accused of murdering his wife, Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) escapes from the law in an attempt to find her killer and clear his name. Pursuing him is a team of U.S. marshals led by Deputy Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones), a determined detective who will not rest until Richard is captured. As Richard leads the team through a series of intricate chases, he discovers the secrets behind his wife's death and struggles to expose the killer before it is too late.

Duane Byrge: With his ruggedly resilient demeanor and wily instincts, Ford taps all the deep-down fears and furies of his character, including Kimble’s compulsion to help people even if it means his own neck. His Kimble is brave, decent and, most fun of all, fast on his feet. With his icy sass chilled to the right temperature, Jones is a formidable antagonist. He’s a bloodhound of the highest pedigree, sharing, not surprisingly, many of the same tenacious strengths and weaknesses of his prey. Supporting characters, similarly, are terrific, most prominently Andreas Katsulas as the one-armed man.

The technical contributions are terrific. Michael Chapman’s sharp-sheen lensing and ice-blue hues convey Kimble’s desperate, hard plight while composer James Newton Howard’s propulsive score makes one feel Kimble’s pounding heart. The overall sound — cell doors slamming shut, ambulance sirens — makes one as edgy as a Fugitive.


Roger Ebert: Strangely, although the film is relentlessly manipulative, it plays like real events. Nothing can really be believed in retrospect, but Davis and his actors ground all the action and dialogue in reality, so we don't consider the artifice while it's happening.

Thrillers are a much-debased genre these days, depending on special effects and formula for much of their content. "The Fugitive" has the standards of an earlier, more classic time, when acting, character and dialogue were meant to stand on their own, and where characters continued to change and develop right up until the last frame. Here is one of the year's best films.


Peter Travers: Davis keeps the jolts coming; Kimble leaps from a viaduct into a raging dam to escape Gerard. Minutes before, Kimble got the drop on his pursuer. ”I didn’t kill my wife,” he tells Gerard, giving up the chance to shoot the cop, who’d waste him in a instant. ”I don’t care,” says Gerard with a smile of chilling sarcasm.

For all the visceral impact, it’s the nuances of characterization that raise The Fugitive above the herd. Ford invests Kimble with the passion of a man who genuinely loved his wife, Helen, played by the beautiful Sela Ward. The flashbacks of the murder, Kimble’s struggle with the one-armed man (Andreas Katsulas) and his attempts to revive his wife as she lies bleeding in their bedroom have a piercing urgency. It also helps that Jones adds wry shadings to a cop who could have been played as a robot. Gerard can tease a young cop affectionately about his ponytail and then be willing to risk the same rookie’s life in a hostage situation He has his own curt reasoning; ”I don’t bargain.”


Trailer
posted by Carillon (16 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I saw this many years after its original release - and while I've always acknowledged Harrison Ford for being an actor, this might be where I first started respecting Ford as an actor.
posted by porpoise at 12:22 AM on June 7


I haven’t seen this in ages, long enough that I’d totally forgotten Andreas Katsulas is the one-armed man. I’ve been rewatching Babylon 5 and Star Trek TNG recently, and I’ve loved his performances in them. I’m keen to rediscover this now!
posted by threecheesetrees at 1:21 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


The cat and mouse pursuit of Kimble is fantastic film-making, despite the hackneyed evil Big Pharma conspiracy driving everything. I could watch 90% of this movie over and over again. The chaser and chasee are so well balanced, each of them getting various breaks that keeps Kimble free but constantly looking over his shoulder, if not outright running for the entire movie.

For the remaining 10%:
  1. Nichols' pursuit of Kimble at the end is an out-of-character (for Nichols) plot device to goose the ending with some action.
  2. Gerard can tease a young cop affectionately about his ponytail and then be willing to risk the same rookie’s life in a hostage situation He has his own curt reasoning; ”I don’t bargain.” -- This is the scene where the US Marshalls execute a (no-knock?) warrant to recapture an escaped (black) convict holed up at his girlfriend's house. In the confusion, the convict takes the rookie cop hostage and Gerard guns him down without even trying to negotiate, then tells the convict's girlfriend to shut up when she starts screaming in horror/trauma. The money line, "I don't bargain", is whispered into the ear of the rookie who has likely had their hearing permanently damaged by Gerard's gun going off right next to their head. Intended to show Gerard as a no-bullshit pursuer of justice, this has not aged well.

posted by cardboard at 5:27 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]


This film has a special place in my heart: I first realized I was making real progress in Polish when I suddenly understood the conversation between the landlady and her dirtbag son.
posted by orrnyereg at 6:06 AM on June 7 [10 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I saw this when it came out. Or at least not long after when it came to premium cable.

What got all the press at the time was the train crash. That was a monumental set piece that looks great and holds up to this day.

Ford's reputation really shot up with this movie for a lot of people, but I never had any doubts about his abilities. He did plenty of work in the eighties of different types to show off his skills. And over the years I've discovered his pre-Han Solo movies. Small parts, but he wasn't there just for his handsomeness.

Tommy Lee Jones was at the top of his game in the early nineties and his Oscar was well deserved. His support players are all great, including Joe Pantoliano. They all get some time on camera along the way. (The sequel is a lesser effort because it discards that type of character development.)

Out of the bad guys, Andreas is great. The doctor is kind of bland. The scene where Kimble shows up at the reception room and starts harassing the doctor as he attempts to speak always feels out of place. But it's over soon enough.

One other thing: you won't find more quintessentially Nineties opening credits than this movie's, with the turning letters and then the font used for the rest of the credits.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:47 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


The Fugitive is a fascinating movie. On one hand, it's really a top-notch production with a great cast, great story, great acting, great effects. It's one of the best of the early to mid 90s thrillers. On the other hand, I consider The Fugitive to be the movie that really cemented the downturn in Harrison Ford's career (in retrospect, I'll admit). It has the prestige of a Harrison Ford film, but it doesn't have the magic.
posted by Stuka at 8:18 AM on June 7


I'd be remiss not to mention the John Mulaney bit about The Fugitive. "You switched your samples! And you doctored your research! So that you could have -- Provasic?!"

It is weird, as he alludes to in passing, that Jeroen Krabbé didn't even attempt an American accent, despite his character having a super white Anglo name like Charles Nichols. But I thought he brought a great smarminess to the role. You can also see that in his turn as Baron Daguerre in the Patrick Bergin/Uma Thurman version of Robin Hood.
posted by Cash4Lead at 11:27 AM on June 7


This movie was up for a best picture Oscar wasn't it? That was a strong year for best picture candidates, every movie up for the nomination that year could have won the award in a different year. I remember The Fugitive getting a bit of mocking because how does it get on the same list with these other great films but I think it deserved its place. The best picture of the year doesn't need to be a "serious" film, it can be a thriller or action movie that keeps you enthralled for the whole 100 minutes or whatever length. Yes it wasn't going to beat Schindler's List but it was still a very good movie and one that I am more likely to watch again.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:55 PM on June 7


I was about 13 when this was out in theaters & I went to see it with my mom and my brother (15-16 at the time). I just remember when we left the movie and we were all talking about it, one of us said "didn't you feel like you wanted Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones to ... like ... kiss or something?" and everyone agreed! And I don't think it's we really wanted them to kiss, but the two of them just had that intense sort of chemistry. And I've seen bits and pieces of this movie since then, but I just remember what a connection Ford & Jones had as actors when they didn't really share much screentime.

(I'm sure there's fanfic about that. I'm not going to go look.)
posted by edencosmic at 6:37 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I watched the TV show with my dad as a kid because he liked it when he was younger and it was first run. The movie absolutely lived up to our expectations. It was a great thriller with excellent acting. I still half-yell "I DON'T CARE" when someone tells me something I half-suspect. "I didn't kill my wife" hasn't come up yet but one can hope. I was just thinking recently that I should show this to my kids. I hope they like it.

We also watched Maverick and Wild Wild West and those movies were disappointments. Get Smart was pretty great though and if The Prisoner and Hogan's Heroes are ever made into movies my childhood father/son re-run watching circles will be complete.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 2:03 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones totally should have kissed.

Guys, if you're reading this, there's still time.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:52 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


I watched the TV show with my dad as a kid because he liked it when he was younger and it was first run. The movie absolutely lived up to our expectations.

I never watched the show before seeing the movie (though, as a child of the 70s/80s, I did watch The Incredible Hulk, which I think is its generational equivalent), but my dad was a fan of sorts. I remember when the movie came out, he told me how when he was in college in the 60s someone would yell out to the dorm 'the Fuge is on!', and he'd come watch the last 15 minutes of the episode, to see how Kimble got away that week.

I did catch a couple of episodes of the show at some point after the movie came out, including the series finale. The show had years to build the Kimble vs. Gerard dynamic, but I thought the movie did a great job at distilling it down into movie length.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:40 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


It is weird, as he alludes to in passing, that Jeroen Krabbé didn't even attempt an American accent, despite his character having a super white Anglo name like Charles Nichols.

The role was to have been Richard Jordan's. He had already started filming when he was diagnosed with brain cancer, so Krabbé was a last-minute replacement (Jordan died a few weeks after the movie was released).

As to why (a) Krabbé in particular was chosen in lieu of an Anglo actor or (b) the name of the character was not altered by in dialogue looping, I do not know. It comes across as a peculiar choice, although not so conscious a one as, say, casting the distinctly and inescapably Lancashireman Pete Postlethwaite as Mr. Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects two years later.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:33 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Kimble leaps from a viaduct into a raging dam

Peter Travers, I don't think those words mean what you think they mean.
posted by pykrete jungle at 7:30 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


The role was to have been Richard Jordan's.

Oh, he would have been perfect! Such a shame.
posted by Cash4Lead at 8:23 AM on June 9


Tommy Lee Jones was at the top of his game in the early nineties and his Oscar was well deserved. His support players are all great, including Joe Pantoliano. They all get some time on camera along the way. (The sequel is a lesser effort because it discards that type of character development.)

The sequel/spinoff - US Marshals - was built on the success of Tommy Lee Jones and the supporting cast of Marshals from the Fugitive, for sure. I don't remember much about it, except that it wasn't as much fun as the Fugitive, and when I tried to rewatch it recently the fact that the plot is about the team of Marshals chasing down a black man (Wesley Snipes) for a crime he didn't commit...well, it just didn't feel right and I quit about ten minutes in.

The train wreck was filmed in one take, and apparently the wreckage is still there.

Easy to miss, Julianne Moore is also in this movie (the ER doc who gets suspicious of Kimble-as-janitor), and was supposed to have a larger role, but a lot of her scenes got cut.
posted by nubs at 11:52 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


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