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In my book, THE FUGITIVE ($25) scores very highly on two counts. First, it is one of the best action movies of the 1990s. Second, it is probably the best film adaptations of an old television series. Since THE FUGITIVE nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, I would imagine that many other individuals share my high opinion of the film was. Of course, THE FUGITIVE also features another great (and sympathetic) lead performance by Harrison Ford as the innocent man on the run, as well as Tommy Lee Jones' Oscar winning turn as the single-minded lawman on his trail.

As I stated above, THE FUGITIVE is based upon the incredibly popular (and now classic) television series starring David Janssen, which depicted the plight of one Dr. Richard Kimble, who is convicted of murdering his wife, despite his assertion that the true culprit was a one armed man. After escaping from custody, Kimble spends his time in pursuit of his wife's killer, while the authorities dog his every step. In this updated version of the tale, Ford portrays Kimble and Jones is deputy US Marshall Samuel Gerard, who is always a few steps behind the fugitive he is hunting. Director Andrew Davis maintains the film's breakneck pace, which rarely gives the audience a chance to catch their breaths. In addition Davis also stages some pulse pounding action set pieces. The train wreck sequence loses none of its impact on video and remains of the most thrilling moments in all of cinema. Heck, I don't know if Hollywood will ever stage another train wreck as good or effective as the one found in THE FUGITIVE. In addition to Ford and Jones, The rock solid cast of THE FUGITIVE also features Sela Ward, Julianne Moore, Joe Pantoliano, Andreas Katsulas and Jeroen Krabbe.

This is the second time that Warner Home Video has issued THE FUGITIVE on DVD. This new release features a brand new transfer that offers THE FUGITIVE in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for 16:9 displays. Warner has done a great job re-mastering the film, giving fans a pictures that is cleaner, sharper and better defined than the first release, which appeared in the very early days of the DVD format. In its day, the original DVD release of THE FUGITIVE was quite good; however, the new release makes it appear murky and under-defined by comparison. Colors are strongly rendered and the flesh tones seem more accurate on this release than they did in the past. The intensity of many hues stand out, yet they are reproduced with complete stability and no signs of smearing. Blacks are dead on perfect and the image creates a very impressive level of shadow detail, which improves the clarity of the film's many dark sequences. Digital compression artifacts are completely tamed by clean dual layer authoring.

THE FUGITIVE features a great sounding Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack from the early days of the format. The soundtrack is engaging and high impact, making full use of the discrete channels for both subtle sound effects and those that are far more intense. Split surround activity is well implemented and completely believable, while the forward soundstage maintains a spacious presence and clean panning between channels. Dialogue reproduction is quite good, with the voices sounding natural and maintaining their intelligibility, even when the sound effects get fairly loud. The bass channel adds the necessary weight to the track, making all of the sound effects even more formidable. James Newton Howard's terrific score is well integrated into the mix and the track's excellent frequency response reproduces it with a completely musical sound. A French Dolby Surround track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, in addition to the DVD's supplemental materials. Topping things off is and audio commentary with director Andrew Davis and actor Tommy Lee Jones. While the commentary has some slow passages, it does contain a lot of great information about the production. Also, one should note that Tommy Lee Jones' comments are recorded from over the phone line, in a synced audio/video set up, which prevents him and Davis from interacting in a true one-to-one fashion. Also included on the DVD are two very good featurettes, which are much better than the standard puff pieces that accompany most releases. Clocking in at twenty-three minutes is On the Run With The Fugitive, which includes recent interviews with the film's star Harrison Ford, as well as members of the production team- Jones is also represented in the program, but in the form of an older interview from the time of the film's release. This is a very solid program that delves into how the project came to the screen and the contributions of the various players. The second featurette runs nine minutes and is entitled Derailed: Anatomy of a Train Wreck. I would imagine that THE FUGITIVE was filmed during the last hurrah for practical special effects because this program shows that the filmmakers staged an actual train wreck for the movie, instead of creating it digitally. Perhaps that is why the train wreck in THE FUGITIVE has a gritty, gut wrenching quality that some films with digital effects can't seem to achieve. Also included on the DVD is a somewhat half-baked introduction to the movie, a theatrical trailer, biographies and a listing of awards garnered by Tommy Lee Jones for his performance in the film.

THE FUGITIVE is a well-acted and solidly staged action movie that has since become a genre classic. Warner's new DVD edition of the film looks and sounds terrific, so with the improved image quality and the addition of supplements, this disc is a pretty worthwhile upgrade. For those action fans that never purchased THE FUGITIVE, the new DVD is a must have acquisition.


The Fugitive - Special Edition


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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