1993 / Best Picture / Best Supporting Actor

Film #398: The Fugitive (1993)

It has been really interesting chronicling the history of cinema over the course of this blog as we’ve seen film-making change during the past seventy years. Whereas cinema was once the only source of entertainment that people could find soon films saw themselves competing with a box which could be found in the living room of most homes. Television provided an alternative to the cinema where people could be informed and entertained in equal measure. As we entered the 1990s a trend began to adapt old TV shows into movies with spooky sitcom The Addams Family being the first major example of this. Oscar honoured this trend by nominating The Fugitive for Best Picture with the film being based on the 1960s series of the same name.

Although you’d think it would be hard to condense four seasons of a show into a two hour film, I felt that director Andrew Davis and the two screenwriters did an admirable job. Both the TV show and the film focus on Dr. Richard Kimble, a respected surgeon who is convicted of killing his wife and sentenced to death. As the title would suggest, Kimble soon goes on the run and is eager to find the one-armed man who he claims was the real killer. As I wasn’t overly familiar with the plot of the TV show, I was wondering how they could possibly have made this premise last so long as it seems like an ideal movie plot. I’m guessing why this was adapted into a film and the cat-and-mouse sequences between Kimble and Deputy Marshall Gerard were expertly choreographed. However, the film doesn’t feel too much like a Best Picture winner and instead is nothing more than an above average action thriller. Whilst there’s nothing particularly wrong about that genre of the film, I don’t think it stacks up against a lot of the other films I’ve watched over the course of the decade.

It’s incredibly surprising then that The Fugitive would be nominated for an amazing seven Oscars including Best Picture and a win for Tommy Lee Jones in the Supporting Actor category. I was sceptical of Jones’ win before watching The Fugitive primarily because he’d convinced the academy his performance here was better than Ralph Fiennes’ turn in Schindler’s List. After watching the film I’m even more convinced that Fiennes should have triumphed as Jones’ wise-cracking deputy wasn’t exactly a crucial presence in the film. Part of me thinks that his award here was the academy’s way of apologising for not giving him the win for his superior performance in JFK which was definitely more of an award-winning turn. I personally feel The Fugitive’s main strengths were its cinematography and editing both of which added more tension to the brilliant chase sequences. However, The Fugitive didn’t win in any of these categories which I would have a problem with if it weren’t for the fact that the majority of the awards went to Schindler’s List. After following his career over two decades I feel it’s rather a shame that Harrison Ford has reverted back to his action persona especially as we saw him shine in films as diverse as Witness and Working Girl. At the same time Ford is a brilliant action hero and he gives a compelling turn as a wrongly-accused man searching for the truth. Interestingly I feel that Ford looks more like a fugitive before he goes on the run as his beard gives him the look of a homeless gentleman while his clean-shaven look is more in line with that of a debonair doctor. Like a lot of action films, The Fugitive calls for some large suspensions of disbelief in order for the plot to progress but I didn’t particularly have a problem with any of these. In fact I found The Fugitive to be a refreshing change to all of the historical epics I’ve watched recently and it acted as more of a pallet cleanser between the stereotypical ‘worthy films’. But ultimately The Fugitive doesn’t show me anything that suggests it should be a Best Picture¬†candidate and I definitely feel that Jones’ Best Supporting Actor win was a mistake.


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