The Fugitive - Blu-ray Review

'like Michael Mann's Heat, the two main protagonists share little screen time but their mere presence is enough to create tension'

Now in its seventeenth year, The Fugitive bears up very well under the inevitable spectacles of age. It’s a old style thriller, the type that people now talk about in rose tinted views centred around the phrase ‘they don’t make them like this anymore’. If The Fugitive were made again today it would almost certainly feature more malice, more explosions, a more convoluted script and Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler in the lead roles.

Thankfully, in 1993 those acting options weren’t really available to the producers and so instead we get a more epic confrontation between two genuine heavyweights in Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford (Jones had recently done Under Siege and JFK, Ford had just become Jack Ryan for the first time and was still riding the success of Indiana Jones from four years prior). The premise is solid gold thriller material. Ford is Richard Kimble, a wealthy Chicago doctor who returns home one night to find his wife (Sela Ward) murdered. Wrongly convicted of the crime Kimble goes on the run, only to find he is being hunted by Samuel Gerard, a ferocious US Marshall who will stop at nothing to get his man.

Of course, much of the fun of The Fugitive is in watching the battle of wits and wills between Ford and Jones. Like Michael Mann's Heat, the two main protagonists share little screen time but their mere presence is enough to create tension in the first half. From a dramatic train escape to a waterfall jump which requires some suspension of disbelief, The Fugitive is strongest in its setup – Kimble forced to live in relative squalor and avoid Gerard, with all his superior equipment and skill. There’s plenty of tension in these opening moments, with the scenes leading up to the water-filled tunnel chase being particularly satisfying.

Towards the end though, The Fugitive loses some of its atmosphere somewhere amongst Andrew Davis' laboured direction. A chase from some holding cells, through a packed parade should be tension filled but instead feels like a friendly game of tick. Equally, Kimble seems to be at ease to walk through hospitals and other potentially dangerous areas without fear of capture or a worse fate at the hands of the overbearing conspiracy that comes to light later in the piece.

It's this conspiracy that really makes The Fugitive struggle in its final act. The reveal is undramatic and fairly obvious and there never seems to be enough weight behind the conspirator's emotions to justify their actions. Still, there's enough here to keep you interested as we limp towards the inevitable conclusion. A phone conversation between Jones and Ford from a suspect's apartment is a turning point as Gerard starts to show some empathy with Kimble's plight and once the final fight makes it into the laundry room we do finally get some second-half tension and intrigue.

The first half of The Fugitive then is an absolutely prime cut example of how to make a great thriller and, although the second half labours, there is enough here to keep you interested and entertained as two members of Hollywood royalty really go to work properly.

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'Jones was also good, though I'm questioning the Oscar (he beat out Ralph Fiennes and Leonardo DiCaprio, for crying out loud!)' - Life of a Cinephile and Bibliophile, 4/5


  1. this was a great movie, although i didn't think tommy lee jones deserved the oscar for this role. he was better in other films.

  2. There's a lot of controversy about that decision. You can barely read a modern review of it without that being mentioned. Loads of examples of that down the years at the Oscars though - one reason I try not to pay too much attention to them!