Harrison Ford in The Fugitive (1993)

The Missing Fugitive Hunter

After responding to an emergency call at the hospital, Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) returns home to not only find his wife Helen (Sela Ward) having been murdered but ends up fighting the one armed man who did it. The trouble is that the Chicago police are not convinced and after being arrested and sent for trial finds himself sentenced to death and on a police bus heading for the lock up. That all changes when another prisoner attempts to break free and in an accident Kimble manages to escape. Now a fugitive the run Kimble is determined not only to stay free but prove his innocence by finding the one armed man, the trouble is that he has Federal Deputy Marshal Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) and his team on his trail and Gerard is relentless, stopping at nothing till he gets his man.

"The Fugitive" has one problem, it is too memorable. That may seem a rather daft statement as how can being too memorable be an issue but you see it has been over 15 years since I last watched the 90s big screen adaptation of "The Fugitive" yet I remembered so much of it. And the bits I forgot well they didn't take long to come flooding back when I started, for example when Dr. Kimble gets caught in a tunnel, I remembered he escaped down the drain before that escape scene arrived. It means that "The Fugitive" is a great movie and still entertaining when if you watch it again but because it is so memorable the twists and turns of the story only work the once.

Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive (1993)

Now I wasn't even born in the 60s so never watched any of the TV series on which "The Fugitive" is based, that may be a bonus because it means I have no nostalgic memory to be tarnished by the big screen reworking which I am sure changed various things. But whether or not this 90s version is faithful or not it is a well put together movie which quickly gets to the meat of the story which is Dr. Kimble on the run, being hunted down by Federal Deputy Marshal Sam Gerard whilst also trying to prove his innocence when it comes to the murder of his wife. And it works because we get enough back story to know why Kimble has been charged but also to set up clues which you initially don't notice but become pivotal later on.

So in effect "The Fugitive" has two themes which interweave with Dr. Kimble firstly trying to avoid being caught by the Marshals and then proving himself innocent. Both of these elements are good but the whole man on the run side of things is most interesting and provides us with some of the movies most memorable action scenes. You have the spectacular police bus crash as it rolls down the bank in from of an oncoming train, you have the dive down the dam when Kimble has no where else to go and there are many more. But more importantly every single one of these actions scenes work, be it the big explosions or the seemingly smaller chases they get you gripped.

And then we have Kimble trying to prove he didn't kill his wife by finding the one armed man he grappled with who killed her, at the same time working out why she was killed. Now this is just as exciting as all the action in "The Fugitive" because we have Kimble having to skirt danger by entering hospitals to try and get a list of men who have lost their arms, which leads to various close calls. But it is also entertaining because whilst initially Marshal Gerard only cares about getting his man finds himself drawn into Kimble's attempt to prove himself innocent. And as you expect this all builds up to an action packed, explosive ending as Kimble finds out why and who is behind his wife's murder whilst Gerard closes in.

Now there are a lot of good performances in "The Fugitive" such as the slightly humorous performance from Joe Pantoliano as Cosmo Renfro and there are some recognizable faces in small roles such as Julianne Moore and Jane Lynch as doctors. But in reality it is two men who make "The Fugitive" such a great movie and they are Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones who are equally as good as each other. Both men deliver the drama of their characters, the slight moments of humour plus the action, both deliver that relentless aspect as we have Kimble stopping at nothing to clear his name whilst Gerard stopping at nothing to get his man. Yet they also add that something extra and that aspect of mutual respect which grows as the chase goes on with Gerard appreciating that Kimble is so desperate to clear his name he must be innocent whilst Kimble realises that Gerard's emotionless approach makes him an ally.

But as I mentioned the issue with "The Fugitive" is that it is too damn memorable with various scenes such as the train hitting the bus staying with you permanently. And then when you start watching it you immediately start remembering things, one scene makes you remember the next and within 30 minutes you will have remembered the whole movie, all the dramatic encounters and how Kimble goes about clearing his name. It does sadly mean that when you watch "The Fugitive" again you end up only watching for the action.

What this all boils down to is that "The Fugitive" is a very good movie which even now over 20 years after it was released still impresses with great action and great characters.