Combustible Celluloid
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With: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Sela Ward, Julianne Moore, Joe Pantoliano, Andreas Katsulas, Jeroen Krabbe, Daniel Roebuck, L. Scott Caldwell, Tom Wood, Ron Dean, Joseph F. Kosala, Nick Searcy, Jane Lynch, John M. Watson Sr.
Written by: Jeb Stuart, David Twohy, based on characters by Roy Huggins
Directed by: Andrew Davis
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for a murder and other action sequences in an adventure setting
Running Time: 130
Date: 08/06/1993

The Fugitive (1993)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Deep Chase

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Fugitive is a rare example of everything in the Hollywood machine coming together in the right way at the right time and working perfectly. Based loosely on the 1963 TV series created by Roy Huggins, the movie's plot takes some of its basic elements: Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) comes home to find his wife's body; he fights with the one-armed man who committed the crime, but winds up getting arrested himself. When the prison transport bus crashes, Kimble escapes and proceeds to track down the one-armed man, hotly pursued by U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) and his crew.

On a surface viewing, Jones steals the movie and, of course, he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Jones also established his "relentless pursuer" character that he has since refined in several other films. With a face made up of strong, hard lines, crisp clothes, and an aggressive, decisive delivery of his dialogue, he plunges into the chase, never once pausing or losing any valuable time. But Ford is his exact opposite. He's ruggedly handsome, perhaps a little disheveled, and speaks barely any dialogue at all. When he does speak, he's almost shy, murmuring, and sometimes tossing in his unsure, sideways grin. Far from a badass, Ford usually looks a bit bewildered and shocked during action sequences, as if wondering how on earth he ever got here. When he takes a blow, he feels the pain. It registers on his face. While fighting, Ford employs a kind of lurching, stumbling, blind luck. Even his attacks seem more like defenses.

This dynamic really stood out for me watching The Fugitive once more. It's almost confusing seeing these two in the same movie; they're two opposite heroes, rather than hero and villain. These two different types of effortless acting in one movie are a real treat; it's as if we're getting two separate movies for the price of one.

Director Andrew Davis was at the helm, and for a brief time, he was considered one of the top action directors in Hollywood, thanks to this and his excellent Steven Seagal film, Under Siege (1992). Sadly, he quickly squandered that with Chain Reaction, The Guardian and a series of increasingly dull films. The Fugitive was nominated for seven Oscars, though, perhaps not surprisingly, Ford and Davis were not among them. A sequel, U.S. Marshals, made without Davis or Ford, followed in 1998.

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