Dr Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) has been arrested for murder, but he insists he is innocent. According to him, he returned home one evening to see a man fleeing the scene, he grappled with him and discovered he had a prosthetic arm, but the intruder got away. Then Kimble went into the bedroom and saw his wife (Sela Ward) lying, dying on the floor, having made one last phone call that to many ears appears to have incriminated her husband. The trial does not go well for the doctor, he is convicted, and taken to be executed - but he really didn't do it...
The Fugitive was one of that strain of movies to arise in the nineties that didn't remake an old film but updated a television series, in this case one of the most popular of the sixties, the finale of which attracted huge viewing figures once it drew to its inevitable conclusion. Telling one story over the course of many seasons is hard enough to encapsulate in one two hour effort, but the original practically told one different story every week, being episodic in nature, something director Andrew Davis and his team of writers opted to jettison in favour of a pared down thriller that stuck fairly close to the necessary plot points of before.
For this, it meant one of the biggest hits of the year, second only to Jurassic Park, but over time it hasn't exactly fallen into obscurity, yet has seen its cachet fall as there are few who judge it to be one of the all-time classics of its decade, and it's mainly relegated to decent popcorn movie, or something to watch before bed if it's ever on TV. At the time, audiences and critics alike were falling over themselves to praise both Ford and the star who played his pursuer Gerard, Tommy Lee Jones, the role actually garnering the latter an Oscar for his troubles. If it doesn't look like an award worthy performance now, it could be because Jones has offered better work before and since.
Or maybe we're more used to him now, and the fact that he applied rarely seen humour to his gruff stylings that nevertheless ensured he remained as much of a hard case as ever was what made us warm to him so much back in 1993. Everything about The Fugitive is professional, as Ford matches his screen adversary by adopting his typically harrassed demeanour, not laying on the grief too thick but convincingly inhabiting the character of a man for whom dogged determination is going to allow him to succeed. For even more than a chase movie this was a detective yarn, which is where things fell apart to some extent as the mystery was slackly handled and only bolstered by the action.
Those action scenes were the highlights as far as the plot went, from the train and bus crash that frees Kimble in a freak incident, to the occasions when he and Gerard cross paths, an electrifying clash of personalities where the Lieutenant admits to his quarry that he doesn't care whether he's innocent or not, he's going to catch him anyway. Although there was a measure of deliberate confusion over the actual guilt of Kimble in the early stages, there was surely nobody in the audience expecting Ford to throw up his hands halfway through and say "You got me, I admit it!", thereafter spending the rest of the movie evading justice. This was mainly to do with the script being written as the shooting was taking place, but all credit to everyone, it may not be the tightest of storylines but it did hang together, and few would come out of this thinking they hadn't been entertained to some degree. Of its kind, The Fugitive was fairly respectable. Music by James Newton Howard.