The Fugitive
directed by Andrew Davis
(Warner Bros., 1993)

Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) and his wife, Helen (Sela Ward), seem to have it all ... until she is murdered. The police believe Kimble killed her and there is enough evidence to convict him; a serious miscarriage of justice results in Kimble being on a train on his way to prison. But there is a train accident, Kimble escapes and he goes on a quest for his wife's true killer, all the while trying to keep one step ahead of the police, led by Marshal Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones).

The television series from the 1960s, with David Janssen as Dr. Kimble, was an ongoing drama in which Kimble sought the one-armed killer of his wife while trying to figure out why she was killed, keeping ahead of the police and helping people along the way. My father was a fan of Janssen and the original series, so he was not thrilled with this movie. But I did not watch the series as a child, and I really liked the film, with a few reservations. (By the way, the television series finale for The Fugitive was one of the most-watched episodes in television history.)

Why did I like this film? While the story is not that complex, it is a riveting tale that the film tells quite well. There are even hints that the police knew, all along, that Kimble might not be guilty. Also, there is a lot of action to blend in with the well-told story, and some excellent cinematography (for which Michael Chapman was deservedly nominated for an Academy Award) really enhances the suspense factor.

The main reason that I liked this film was the Oscar-winning performance by Jones. He could have portrayed Marshal Gerard in several ways, but chose the best way, giving us a Gerard who is intelligent, dogged in his pursuit of Kimble, honorable and dedicated to doing his job to the best of his ability. Ford was the wrongly accused Good Guy, but Jones was not the Bad Guy. He was a Good Guy who just happened to be wrong. Jones is a very intense actor, and that fit this role perfectly. Even as he (and Don Cheadle) rescued Volcano from an absurd premise, Jones manages to outshine Ford here.

Ah, that brings me to my one reservation about this film: Harrison Ford. I want to say Ford did a good job portraying Kimble. But the role had the potential to be an Academy-Award winning performance, and Ford did not give us one. What we saw was, instead, a well-executed portrayal of a well-known character, with no stamp of individualism on it. If you asked me to name Ford movies, I would likely forget this one, as it just as well could have been several other actors, (e.g., Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson). Whereas Jones gave us an A+ performance, Ford probably earned a respectable but unspectacular A- or B+. That's not bad, but it could've been better.

Well, now that I've finished my little rant, which will likely tick some people off, I will conclude by saying that this is a very good action-suspense film with good cinematography and a wonderful performance by Tommy Lee Jones, and it is a very enjoyable viewing experience.

by Chris McCallister
18 November 2006

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