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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( 1:10:30)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Italian - Hearing Impaired, Romanian, Bulgarian
  Extras
  • Additional footage - Introduction by Andrew Davis, Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Andrew Davis, Tommy Lee Jones
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • 2 Featurette

The Fugitive: SE

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 125 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Dr Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) has it all. A successful career, a beautiful wife (Sela Ward), and a rich, luxurious lifestyle. However, when his wife is brutally murdered by a one-armed intruder (no, not a euphemism), his perfect world crashes down around him. But that’s not all fate has in store for Richard; for in the eyes of the lazy and dim-witted Chicago police department, he is the most obvious and convenient suspect. To his amazement, Richard soon finds himself charged with first degree murder, tried, convicted and on his way to death row at Illinois State Penitentiary.

But, just as his prison bus nears its destination, Richard’s fellow convicts stage a violent escape attempt and the bus careens out of control and down an embankment; coming to rest on a railway track. No sooner have the wheels stopped spinning than a locomotive comes barrelling along the line, and only just in time does Richard scramble out of the wreck and make good his escape; running for his life through the forest. It’s not long before the US marshals arrive; a bunch of wise-cracking yet resourceful bloodhounds led by the gravel-voiced Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones). And thus the pursuit begins; Gerard hot on the heels of his fugitive, and Kimble searching earnestly for the true identity of the one-armed man.

A self-confessed, big-old chase film, The Fugitive is so, so much more. Beautifully constructed by director Andrew Davis, it is one of the best examples of an action suspense-thriller that you will ever see. Cleverly, the two simultaneous pursuits of Kimble and Gerard are masterfully intertwined, and each serves to heighten the suspense of the other. In a stroke of genius, both these opposing characters are painted as highly intelligent and immensely capable; each the intellectual equals of the other, and this greatly intensifies their struggle. Any sports-fan will tell you that evenly matched opponents produce a more entertaining tussle! Add to this the blurring of the lines between protagonist and antagonist; and the audience is able to cheer for both Kimble and Gerard in equal amounts. The constant switching between feeling Kimble’s constant, gnawing fear of discovery, and piecing together Gerard’s constant searching leaves you breathless by the film’s end.

The tightly constructed premise and perfect characterisations are well supported by some wonderful action set-pieces and superb acting from the leads. Although only glimpsed briefly in the first ten minutes of the film, Harrison Ford and Sela Ward do a beautiful job in selling the loving relationship between Richard and his wife Helen. So too, Harrison is superbly emotive as the full force of Richard’s double-tragedy completely crushes him. By the time Richard’s conviction and sentencing is announced (come twelve minutes in), the audience feels desperately for his plight.

However, as good as Harrison is, he just can’t compete with Tommy Lee Jones’ Academy Award winning performance as Sam Gerard. In the performance that made his career, Tommy Lee’s wonderfully overt, yet beautifully understated Gerard is full of charm, boundless energy and respect for his adversary. As tenacious as a junkyard dog, Tommy Lee’s Gerard goes after his prey with both barrels and doesn’t stop until the job is over; and although his attitude towards Kimble changes as the plot progresses, the stone-faced actor lets only the subtlest of hints slip through his character’s brazen exterior. There is no doubt that this is Tommy Lee’s film, and it is his performance that makes the difference between great and unforgettable.

  Video
Contract

In terms of video, this Special Edition release of The Fugitive (the film’s third in our region) seems to be identical to the re-mastered release that was last to be released here. That is to say that although it is not completely without its problems, it is pretty damn good.

In terms of source material, the print used for the widescreen (2.35:1) anamorphic transfer is remarkably clean, displaying the odd speck at the start of the first reel, but very infrequently thereafter. Making good use of the print, the telecine process has produced a nice sharp image without undue aliasing or moirč; only the usual suspects – brickwork and Venetian blinds - provide obvious occurrences of the latter. The sharpness of the image allows a wealth of detail to be displayed, from the beautiful woodlands of North Carolina to the bags under Tommy Lee’s hangdog eyes. Also wonderful is the detail to be seen in the Chicago skyline, both day and night; director Davis playing the enormity of the city for all it’s worth.

In terms of colour, blacks are deep and clear, and the at times vivid hues are nicely balanced; a fact evidenced by the perfect skin tones. In terms of the film’s translation into the digital space, the good news continues with not a hint of MPEG artefacing having been introduced by the compression process. Even the many instances of smoke, mist and breath are handled without a hint of posterisation or macro-blocking.

In fact, the only negative aspect of the transfer is the predominance of film grain throughout the production. Noticeable mainly during the opening credits (the establishing scenes over the Chicago skyline) and Kimble’s interrogation and courtroom scenes, it is rather distracting for the first ten-odd minutes of the film. Thankfully, it dies right down as the chase proper begins, and remains only marginally detectable thereafter.

  Audio
Contract

Ever since The Fugitive’s very first incarnation on DVD in our region the critics have been unanimous in their agreement; The Fugitive’s dynamic and immersive Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack provides reference quality home theatre viewing. Even during the initial credit sequence a brooding thunder rolls over Chicago and not for the last time does the subwoofer lend itself to the establishment of a tense and foreboding mood. So too as Kimble is tormented by his painful memories and the film’s backstory is established, the front and surround channels combine to produce eerie and enveloping whooshes of emotion.

As the action heats up all six channels really hit high gear; displaying constant activity and great separation. The surround channels are utilised in spectacular fashion to carry a large proportion of ambient and directional sound effects. Trains thunder to a halt and crash around you. Helicopters criss-cross the room. Water crashes over the causeway of an enormous dam. Search dogs bark in the middle-distance and lonely police sirens blare in the cold dawn. Of course the LFE channel continues to play an integral part in proceedings, and ever the while James Newton Howard’s beautifully dramatic, Academy Award nominated score surrounds you.

In terms of dialogue the story continues, with clear and distinct dialogue at all times and the English track displaying no problems with audio synch. For this Special Edition release, Warner have added Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes in both French and Italian, and a sampling of these mixes during key action scenes indicates that the quality indeed extends to all mixes equally.

  Extras
Contract

Stock standard static menus provide access to a reasonable collection of extras for this Special Edition re-release.

  • Commentary – Director Andrew Davis and Tommy Lee Jones: Although Tommy Lee is mentioned, in reality he’s hardly there; basically silent until the 19 minute mark (when Gerard finally appears) and then very sporadically after the 30 minute mark. During these initial ten minutes the pair share anecdotes about the film, but after that Tommy Lee seems to be injecting comments completely separately to Davis - and certainly never about his own work. Davis on the other hand talks almost continuously for the duration (he stops momentarily at several places to watch the performances) pointing out technical aspects such as scripting, locations, camera angles editing and casting. It's not the best commentary I’ve ever heard, but certainly not the worst, and it was able to hold my interest for the duration.

  • Featurette: “On the Run”: (23min) In interviews recorded just after the movie was released, Andrew Davis, Tommy Lee Jones, Harrison Ford and various co-producers talk about just how darn special it was to make The Fugitive, including what drew them to the project and other interesting titbits. The interviews are intercut with behind-the-scenes footage from on-set, and clips from the finished film. Quite interesting and a respectable running time.

  • Featurette – ‘Derailed – Anatomy of a Train Crash”: (8:53) Participants look back on the staging of what is widely agreed to be the best train crash ever committed to celluloid. Filmed before digital effects really came into their own, The Fugitive staged its action opening using two real locomotives on a private railway line. As Harrison Ford relates - it’s actually cheaper to use the real thing if you can – and the producers took that to the nth degree here.

  • Introduction: (1:47) A weird little piece that has been placed at the head of the film (and is also accessible through the extras menu), Some eight years after the film was released, Harrison Ford provides one or two chief memories about the production, and Andrew Davis shares a rather disjointed moment with Tommy Lee on the telephone – bizzarro. I’m still scratching my head.

  • Trailer: It might be widescreen (1.85:1) and with a good transfer, but who the hell wants to watch it?

  • Cast and Crew: One page listing the production’s major participants. Warner really shouldn’t have bothered.

  • Awards: One page of text listing the three Best Supporting awards that Tommy Lee picked up for his performance. You gotta love that guy...

  Overall  
Contract

The Fugitive is the quintessential action suspense-thriller and, atypically for the genre, is a film that can be enjoyed over and over again. After two earlier attempts, this Special Edition release from Warner represents a disc that should be in every fan’s collection. I know you all have copies already - maybe it's time to hit eBay?! For those few of you that haven't seen it, I recommend you drop whatever you are doing, go right out now, rent it, and enjoy it.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1850
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      And I quote...
    "Beautifully constructed, The Fugitive is one of the best examples of an action suspense-thriller that you will ever see..."
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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