Oscar Movie Month: "The Fugitive" Review

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Harrison Ford stars as Dr. Richard Kimble, a respected surgeon who finds his wife murdered in their home. He is wrongly accused of his wife's murder and sentenced to death, but a fortunate train crash leave Kimble with the opportunity to flea, and find the true killer of his wife before being caught.
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Oscar Movie Month: "The Fugitive" Review

-- Rating: PG-13 (for a murder and other action sequences in an adventure setting)
Length: 130 minutes
Release Date: Aug. 6, 1993
Directed by: Andrew Davis
Genre: Action/Adventure/Crime

In "The Fugitive," a doctor falsely accused of murdering his wife goes on the run as he tries to find the real murderer. The thriller film was based on a television series of the same name that had been created by Roy Huggins.

In the movie, Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) gets home one night from work to find his wife Helen (Sela Ward) fatally wounded and the killer still on the scene. Kimble struggles with the intruder but fails to subdue him, and his wife's wounds prove fatal. The authorities pin the murder on Kimble because, among other reasons, there is no evidence of a forced break in. He receives a death sentence, but fate hands him a reprieve when the bus he was traveling in is involved in an accident. Together with other prisoners, Kimble makes a run for it.

The doctor returns to Chicago, where he used to practice surgery, and gets some money from his friend Dr. Charles Nichols (Jeroen Krabb). His investigations reveal that the murderer is a former police officer Frederick Sykes (Andreas Katsulas). Kimble also learns that the one-armed killer was working on behalf of a pharmaceutical company he had investigated in the past. Kimble's past investigations into the company's drug research headed by Nichols had revealed disturbing revelations about the drug, which led to its disapproval by the FDA. Apparently, it was Nichols who ordered Sykes to kill Dr. Kimble.

Deputy U.S. Marshall Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) heads an investigation of his own and unearths the truth. Together with his colleagues Cosmo Renfro (Joe Pantoliano), Poole (L. Scott Caldwell), Biggs (Daniel Roebuck), and Newman (Tom Wood), they run an investigation that closely parallels Kimble's.

Few movies can beat "The Fugitive" in terms of suspense and wicked fun. It was entertaining to watch when it was released in 1993, and it is still interesting today. If Ford was majestic in "Indiana Jones," then he is spectacular in this movie. Together with Jones, who also has stellar acting credentials, the actors deliver a memorable performance that few others would have matched.

All the credit cannot go to the characters, however, because the film director did his bit too. The director, who is also a former cinematographer, is well known for his spectacular stunts. Those who have watched movies such as "Above the Law" or "The Package" will agree that he does not believe in doing things halfway. A case in point is the crash scene where Kimble and other prisoners escape. The stunt was so well orchestrated that it has become many people's favorite scene to rewind in the movie.

At first glance, "The Fugitive" seems like just an average action thriller. It is only after watching the first few minutes roll that one gets just how good the movie is. In fact, discerning viewers will not take more than ten minutes to understand that the movie is going to be fast-paced. It involves cops playing hide and seek with bad guys and a riveting chase through the city of Chicago that is the very definition of adrenaline rush. Perhaps a little depth could have been added to the plot, but then again that could have distracted viewers from the thrill and action in the movie. This view may be supported by the fact that many people have found the first half of the movie to be more entertaining than the last half.

The film relies on the technique of keeping Kimble only a few steps away from his pursuers to keep the suspense. This is not an easy strategy, and on less talented hands, it could have backfired big time. In the hands of Davis, however, everything is timed to perfection, and there are no comical near misses. He is an artist who understands that action and artistry must always go in tandem and that one without the other would be bland. This is the same technique he exhibited in "Above the Law," the Steven Seagal thriller that people love to this day. This is why some people have compared him to the great masters such as Alfred Hitchcock and Carol Reed.

Everything considered, "The Fugitive" is a gripping movie that was imaginatively scripted and filmed. It would have been an orthodox enough film, but the director and the actors turned it into a delightful experience. While many thrillers rely on special effects and carefully structured formulas, "The Fugitive" has all the hallmarks of a classic by relying on character portrayal and dialogue to tell its tale.

Rating: 4 out of 5