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The Fugitive (1993)

by on 2012/05/30

“Some people run from a possible fight,
Some people figure they can never win,
And although this is a fight I can lose,
The accused is an innocent man.”

* * * *

Perhaps the coolest thing about small-to-big screen adaptations is that — assuming you liked the movie — there’s potential to watch even more.

Take The Fugitive for example. I’d seen it before but have just been reminded how much I enjoyed the story, a kind of brainy loner’s take on The A-Team’s core idea.

Set in and around Illinois, we follow the misadventures of Dr. Richard Kimble (hardlyneeds-a-reference’s Harrison Ford). Convicted for a crime he didn’t commit, this man promptly escapes to the Chicago underground, where he survives as a troubleshooting hobo. Helping the needy along the way, he’s intent on proving his innocence, usually a step ahead of Deputy Marshal Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones).

Fortunately, Kimble has lots of friends, whether he knows it or not. Some of the most recognizable faces he and we will encounter include: Jeroen Krabbe, Jane Lynch, Julianne Moore, Joe Pantoliano, and Sela Ward. Which is not to suggest that Kimble is ignorant. In fact, he is identified as exceptionally intelligent by one associate, and proves it to us time again in the ways he eludes detection. He’s not a shallow caricature we yell advice at in mid-screening.

Other details suggest the actor’s commitment to the character’s pathos: his struggle with a coat collar, a last look back at his home, speaking of a victim in the present tense. While these acts are not strictly necessary, they do make him convincing.

We get a deeper sense of what’s going on in his mind through the craft of editing. Black and white footage indicates past events. Intercut along the main line, we get snippets of background between the latter-day booking, trial, flight, and investigation. This structure allows for the possibility our hero could be guilty. We don’t see the final crime scene flashback until quite a bit later on.

It’s all effective and satisfying, with a single notable exception: the much-derided “diving” shot with its mismatched body double. Other obvious visual effects I recalled from a prior (theatrical) viewing were mitigated by the age of the film stock and its relatively forgiving grain. (Nowadays compositing often stands out with digital clarity.)

Something I did not recall, but was intrigued to note this time, was the use of unusual sound effects during pivotal moments. The investigation is underscored by the noise of a power drill. Animal cries can be heard throughout a fight. A dream is abruptly ended with the screech of a braking car. I found these oddities interesting in an otherwise unremarkable listening experience.

On balance, I’m pleased with The Fugitive, and tempted to seek out more. A good premise, well acted, with solid production values. If the cinematic version is any reflection of the Sixties series, I’ll be sure to pick up the forthcoming set, The Most Wanted Edition. Four seasons might just hold me for, say, 25 to life.

* * * *

Rated 14A

130 minutes

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