Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Fugitive


directed by: Andrew Davis

starring: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Sela Ward, Joe Pantoliano, Andreas Katsulas, Julianne Moore

Released in 1993.

Based on the classic '60s TV series that famously drew huge ratings to finally catch the "one-armed man" who killed Richard Kimble's wife, The Fugitive is best known today as a classic '90s thriller, one of several such blockbusters to star Harrison Ford.  It also helped launch the popular career of Tommy Lee Jones.  In fact, it's the rare moment where the intended star and in fact title character might be said to have the movie stolen from out of under him.  Jones was so popular (he earned a Supporting Actor Oscar) that he earned a spin-off, U.S. Marshals, which was pointedly far more about his character than another fugitive like Kimble.

The Fugitive, like the Humphrey Bogart Maltese Falcon, is a classic example of Hollywood managing to buck the apparent rule that remakes can't at least match the original (Cecil B. DeMille accomplished this himself with the remake of his own The Ten Commandments, with the later Charlton Heston version becoming the one perennially broadcast at Easter).  If it hasn't already, the movie will eventually replace the legacy of the series.

That's the strength of the basic archetype.  This kind of story is told all the time on TV, usually within a single episode.  The original series was a rare instance of a single plot sustaining a continuing arc, something far more common in the modern era.  It'd be like Prison Break being made into a movie.  The pursuit really is a give-and-take between the sequences, Jones convincing us that his duty is the only thing that matters and Ford helping us believe that he's innocent.

None of it is very deep, but it's iconic.  Now that it's been told twice you can just as easily imagine someone else doing the story again, and maybe finding something a little greater in it.  The strength of this version will always be what it always was, Ford and Jones, but even Jones has since become ubiquitous that The Fugitive alone isn't completely necessary to keep his legacy intact.

But just for the record, it's a heck of a ride while it lasts.