The Fugitive (1993)
Written by: Jeb Stuart & David Twohy.
Story by: David Twohy
Based on: The Fugitive television series created by Roy Huggins
Directed by; Andrew Davis
Starring: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Sela Ward, Joe Pantoliano, Jeroen Krabbé, Andreas Katsulas
The Fugitive, director Andrew Davis’ (Under Siege) feature film adaptation of the classic 1960s television series, was one of 1993’s biggest hits, thanks to the talents of Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, who earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard.
Ford plays Chicago surgeon Dr. Richard Kimble (the late David Jansen’s TV role), whose life is turned upside down when he is falsely accused of murdering his wife Helen (the luminous Sela Ward). Taken to the Area Six police station, he undergoes the standard investigative process but can’t convince the skeptical detectives that a one-armed intruder is the killer.
Arrested, convicted, and sentenced to death, Kimble is given a sudden and unexpected reprieve when a failed escape attempt causes the prison bus he’s aboard to run off the road and land on a railroad track — and in the path of an oncoming train. Kimble escapes, but not before saving an injured corrections officer from certain death.
When Gerard and his team of deputies arrive at the crash scene, the other surviving corrections officer, in an attempt to cover up his incompetence and to take credit for saving his wounded colleague’s life, at first claims all the passengers on board the bus were killed, but when sets of leg irons “without legs in ’em” are found, Gerard deduces that Kimble has survived and become a fugitive from the law.
The Fugitive compresses several seasons of Roy Huggins’ suspense/morality play TV series, following Kimble’s attempts to solve the mystery of the one-armed man while simultaneously evading Gerard’s dogged pursuit. Along the way, however, Ford’s version of Kimble follows in his television counterpart’s footsteps as he changes his appearance and name to keep out of his pursuer’s sight.
Yet, even as he risks life and liberty in his own investigation into who and why Helen was murdered, Kimble is true to his kind nature and his oath as a medical doctor, saving several people even at the risk of being discovered. And as the good doctor closes in on the one-armed man, Gerard gets closer and closer to Kimble as the movie nears its revealing conclusion.
Davis and screenwriters Jeb Stuart and David Twohy tweak with the television series a bit, telling the entire story in a briskly paced 130-minute-long film, making Gerard a U.S. Marshal instead of a local police lieutenant. Yet, despite the focus on action and the added conspiracy motive behind Helen Kimble’s murder, The Fugitive stays true to the spirit of the original 1960s television series.
Like David Jansen, Ford is an actor most audiences genuinely like and love to cheer for, and Kimble’s predicament and perseverance suit him well in this movie. Jones, too, gives his Gerard both a steely determination to fulfill his mission and a mixture of humor and compassion that surfaces at unexpected moments.
The 2001 Special Edition DVD presents The Fugitive in its original widescreen format. Its extra features include interactive menus, commentary by director Davis and Tommy Lee Jones, two documentaries, a theatrical trailer, and subtitles/language tracks in English and French.