Prosthetics and Suspense
After The Fugitive in 1993, the typical American thriller began copying the formula; The Fugitive became a template. And sometimes, they had Harrison Ford too.
The knock-offs didn’t have Tommy Lee Jones as a US Marshall though, a character with an approachable, friendly arrogance to his work. They also didn’t have Ford (in most cases), who builds his Richard Kimble as a saintly figure, still working to save a child’s life even as he’s attempting escape law enforcement; clearly, Dr. Kimble takes his oath seriously.
The Fugitive is an easy sell
The Fugitive is an easy sell
On the other side is a scummy pharmaceutical company, leading to a known conclusion – Kimble didn’t kill his wife. While The Fugitive lacks a smarmy sexual suggestiveness, the scripted suspense is pure Hitchcock in its form. While exaggerated, the scenario remains plausible in movie terms, and the few action set-pieces elevate the cat/mouse chase.
Ford is perfect in this role, clearly worried and increasingly paranoid, if always doing right. Jones, even if the audiences know he’s falling toward an anti-hero role, never lets up. In their one major scene together – mere seconds of screen time – the two say little to one another, but their reactions and interplay elevate both their characters. Ford pleading, “I didn’t kill my wife,” is a desperate plea with the slightest bit of hope. Jones’ “I don’t care,” comes from a man sworn to his duty, but both men are too locked into their convictions to go any further.
The Fugitive is an easy sell, with a dash of special effects during an early train collision and sensational, audience-thrilling climax that puts Kimble in front of hundreds to make his accusations. There isn’t doubt as to Kimble’s innocence or guilt (he deserves to be free) but there is doubt as to whether he can escape and prove his story. Even knowing Hollywood and how inevitable the result is, The Fugitive is able to convey doubts because Jones’ manhunt appears so confident in its methods. That, and Kimble’s attempts to work through increasing public scrutiny dampen his prospects just enough to carry this to its logical conclusion. Plus, it works on repeat viewings too.
Warner produces a beautiful new 4K master, one superior to any previous home video release. Once past the opening credits, Fugitive visually opens up to a pristine, sharp, and naturally resolved transfer. The organic texture in close looks spectacular. A handful of shots can appear slightly digital (Ford being interrogated, medium shots), but so slight, only the most ardent videophiles will notice. Grain resolves cleanly, and the encode keeps pace.
A satisfying color space gives flesh tones natural warmth, and the environments a satisfying density. Other than some cooler tones that skew the grading slightly with a modern touch, the rest is organic.
The Dolby Vision pass makes definite impact, with intense peak brightness that at times, stretches far enough to draw attention to itself. Otherwise, it’s balanced well, resolving dense shadows at night and keeping shadows thick.
The opening train crash, a demo sequence dating back to the Laserdisc, sounds better here than ever before, even if the Atmos effects sound limited considering the potential. Later though, in the sewers specifically, the Atmos track earns its keep as water splashes in every direction, overheads too. The St. Patrick Day parade echoes into all channels naturally. During the finale, a helicopter sweeps through the heights in an effective example of this format’s potential.
Heavy low-end power fills the soundstage, sucking the air from the room, then rattling walls. Even the score’s drums can produce similar effects; range isn’t subtle.
Bonuses port over from the Blu-ray (and also DVD). Director Andrew Davis and Harrison Ford introduce the film, and then David is joined by Tommy Lee Jones on the commentary track. Three older featurettes join a trailer for the finale.
A phenomenal thriller with a Hitchcock-ian vibe, The Fugitive is an exemplary “wrong man” movie.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 40 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: