Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, Andrew Davis' The Fugitive (1993) is still a massively entertaining crowd-pleaser. Long considered one of the benchmark action films of the 1990s, the film's twisting plot, non-stop thrills and consistent momentum have aged quite gracefully...and except for the background technology, it looks much younger than it really is. Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones give two of the best performances of their respective careers, absolutely losing themselves in a cat-and-mouse chase that encompasses 90% oft the film's 130-minute lifespan. Scoring big with audiences and critics alike, The Fugitive stuck around in theaters for four straight months and, at the time, stood as Warner Bros.' second-highest grossing production of all time. So yeah, it's still a pretty good time at the movies.
More often than not, The Fugitive works because it doesn't hand-hold the audience every step of the way. Most of the characters feel like real, three-dimensional people...and even when they don't (like Jones' U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard, an almost cartoonishly effective government employee), they're likable and charismatic enough to make up for it. The plot, though a little over-the-top for its time, doesn't feel all that far-fetched in certain respects. We understand the motives of both the hunter (Jones) and the hunted (Ford)...which is great, since they're collectively on-screen for at least 80% of the film. During The Fugitive, you're either smack-dab in the middle of a great scene or there's another one just around the corner. I've seen it at least a half-dozen times since its initial DVD release and, though thrillers often feel diluted after several viewings, this one still remains as fresh as it needs to.
Other elements work together to make The Fugitive feel like more than the sum of its parts, from the understated but impressive cinematography by Michael Chapman to James Newton Howard's dynamic, memorable score. It probably stands as director Andrew Davis' best work, while the lean, kinetic story by David Twohy doesn't bog itself down with too many unnecessary details. The Fugitive features just about the perfect amount of exposition, humor, mystery, clever twists and straight-up action to succeed as both a genuine crowd-pleaser and the rare "action thriller" that doesn't feel like a guilty pleasure.
The Fugitive last appeared on Blu-ray (and HD DVD) back in 2006, when lossy Dolby Digital tracks and below-average encodes were considered passable for a high definition release. That doesn't fly anymore, so it's good to know that Warner Bros. hasn't just recycled the old disc for the film's 20th anniversary. We get a terrific new transfer, a new DTS-HD Master Audio track and even a few brand new bonus features to go along with the old ones. It's a well-rounded improvement in all the right areas, which makes this a very easy recommendation for new and old fans alike. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer appears to have been taken from a different source than the 2006 Blu-ray; without a doubt, it's a marked improvement all across the board. Image detail is pleasing, the film's slightly cold color palette looks accurate and a natural layer of film grain has been preserved. Though it doesn't look like director Andrew Davis or cinematographer Michael Chapman were involved in the production of this Blu-ray, I can't imagine that they'd be able to find much wrong with it. Catalog releases don't always look this terrific, so fans should be pleased with the results.
DISCLAIMER: These promotional images are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-Ray's native 1080p resolution.
Like most early Warner Bros. Blu-rays, The Fugitive's 2006 release was saddled with a plain-wrap Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Thankfully, it's been given a nice boost to DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, which obviously gives the film's dynamic soundtrack plenty of room to breathe. From the infamous "train wreck" to gunshots and James Newton Howard's excellent score, the surrounds are given plenty to do and your subwoofer might even get a bit of a workout. Though not quite as bombastic as modern blockbusters, The Fugitive sounds terrific and this Blu-ray offers plenty of support along the way. Optional dubs and subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Mandarin, Thai, Polish and more.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
The menu interface follows Warner Bros.' basic template, with a static, silent background and relatively quick loading time. The Blu-ray is unlocked for region-free playback and features plain black disc artwork. The rest of the packaging is equally as bland, from the slapdash white letterboxed cover image to the ridiculous eco-friendly keepcase (and, of course, no insert). What, no Digibook option this time?
Two new supplements, plus all of the old ones. New stuff includes "Thrill of the Chase"
(28 minutes), a retrospective featurette with participation from Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pantoliano, Jane Lynch, director Andrew Davis, producer Arnold Kopelson, LA Times
critic Kenneth Turan and more key players. It's a fun and lightweight session with plenty of entertaining stories, and it's always nice when actors take the time to remember some of their personal favorite roles. Fans will enjoy this one for sure.
Also new to this release is the Pilot Episode of The Fugitive's brief TV revival (46 minutes), which ran from 2000-01 for a total of 22 episodes. This series has yet to be released to home video in any format, so only those who were lucky enough to record if off TV will have anything more than vague memories. Either way, it's a thoughtful inclusion and ties in nicely to this release, especially since it not only was produced by Arnold Kopelson and Warner Bros., but shares more than a few similarities to the 1993 film (and obviously the original TV series). It's presented in 1080i widescreen and looks pretty good overall.
Everything else has been ported over from the 2006 Blu-ray and earlier releases. These recycled extras include an Audio Commentary with director Andrew Davis and Tommy Lee Jones; an Introduction to the film with Davis, Jones and Harrison Ford (2 minutes); a vintage Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (23 minutes); a second Featurette about the train sequence (9 minutes); and the film's terrific Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes). Overall, a nice assortment that helps make this disc the current "definitive edition".
The Fugitive is, hands down, one of the best thrillers of the 1990s. Featuring terrific performances, a breakneck pace and plenty of classic moments, it's aged quite well during the last 20 years. Warner Bros.' second Blu-ray release is a solid effort in every department, featuring a well-rounded A/V upgrade and even a pair of new supplements mixed in with the old ones. Though not lavished with the detail of a top-tier edition, this is still respectful treatment of a catalog title. It's a no-brainer for fans of The Fugitive, especially those who held off buying the original Blu-ray release. Very Highly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.