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“The Fugitive” – 30th Anniversary shines on 4K

Updated: Nov 21, 2023


4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS

Harrison Ford plays respected vascular surgeon Dr. Richard Kimble, wrongly accused of murdering his wife in the Oscar-nominated action thriller from director Andrew Davis.


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“THE FUGITIVE”

4K Ultra HD & Digital copy; 1993, PG-13 for violence and language; Digital via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (iTunes) (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)

Best extra: The 30-minute featurette, “Thrill of the Chase”












SEVERAL MONTHS ago, I attended the first 4K screening of “The Fugitive” for its 30th anniversary with studio executives, director Andrew Davis, several cast members (Sela Ward, L. Scott Caldwell and Tom Wood) and 400 fans of the action thriller. Nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture, many, including myself, consider it one of the best films of the 1990s.

VIDEO

So, how does the new Warner Brothers 4K Ultra HD disc compare to the recent theatrical presentation? In one word – MAGNIFICENT. The 4K home presentation is so good it’s lining up as a possible Top 10 disc of the year for its TRUE 4K mastering. The onscreen clarity and sharpness are first-rate, sourced from an 8K scan of the original 35mm camera negative (1.85:1 aspect ratio), with the only reduction during the composite title sequence. The natural film grain is more pronounced on the disc from start to finish. I struggled to see the grain seated right in the middle about 1/3 of the way back from the 44-foot by 17-foot Aero Theater screen in Santa Monica. (My home screen for “The Fugitive” measures 8.3 feet by 4.5 feet seated 11 feet away). Davis supervised the restoration and the HDR grading is one of Warner’s best, right up there with the 2021 4K release of “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994).

Colors are natural, especially the facial toning, while the rest are saturated. Check out the extreme greens in the river during the Chicago Saint Patrick’s Day festivities. Shadows are deep and dark, dominating many of the scenes, while super bright highlights show plenty of detail in the spillway waters where our fugitive does a ‘Peter Pan’ jump.

HDR10 peak brightness hits over 3000 nits and averages 347 nits. Also, the 4K video and audio, plus extras, are encoded onto a 100 GB disc. Video bit rate varies from the upper 40 Megabits per second to the upper stratosphere of video encoding of 110 Mbps while averaging in the mid-60 Mbps.




Helen Kimble is murdered

(1&2) Helen Kimble (Sela Ward) is murdered. (3&4) Dr. Kimble says he fought a one-armed man with a prosthetic mechanical arm inside their home and he yells, “You find this man?” But, all the evidence led to Kimble’s arrest and conviction of first degree murder. He is sentenced to the Illinois State Prison at Menard, where he will await execution by lethal injection.




AUDIO

Warner produces a new eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack elevating the Oscar-nominated sound, with deep bass response and effects shooting to height speakers and rears. Dialogue remains front and center and music cues from the robust Oscar-nominated score by composer James Newton Howard (“News of the World”) are clear. It’s evident within the first 30 seconds as the sound of a crashing jail door rattles the title moving across the screen. Don’t be surprised if you jump a bit during the intense train wreck, filmed with 27 cameras in the North Carolina Mountains.

PLOT/STORY

On the surface, “The Fugitive” was destined to be a blockbuster. Based on the popular ‘60s TV series and Victor Hugo’s classic “Les Misérables,” Oscar-winning producer Arnold Kopelson (“Platoon,” “Se7en”) took the project under his wing.

The first order of business was to nail down Hollywood’s biggest action star, Harrison Ford, to play respected vascular surgeon Dr. Richard Kimble, wrongly accused of murdering his wife. The script follows the TV series in which Kimble insists that he was framed, and a one-armed man was the killer. Still, Kimble is found guilty and sentenced to death. The doctor escapes during transport to prison and the chase begins.

As the project unfolded, Kopelson began to hit roadblocks. Ford was lukewarm to the role. “I couldn’t wrap my head around the notion of transforming the TV show into a movie,” he explains in the featurette, “Thrill of the Chase.”




Off to the Illinois State Prison

(1-4) Dr. Kimble and other prisoners are transported by bus to the Illinois State Prison at Menard. A prisoner fakes a sickness and a fight breaks out for the shotgun between prisoner Partida (Ken Moreno) and a state guard (Richard Riehle). The bus rolls onto a rail line and a massive collusion between the freight train and bus. (5&6) Deputy US Marshal Sam ‘Bulldog’ Gerard, Kimble (Tom Lee Jones), and his team including Cosmo Renfro (Joe Pantoliano) arrive at the accident scene to hunt down any surviving prisoners.




Hollywood insiders kept telling Kopelson, “Don’t make it. No TV series has ever been made into a movie.” Then the studio got cold feet as the number of writers began to climb – at the final count, there were nine screenwriters and 25 revisions. For the next five years, “The Fugitive” was stuck in limbo, until Ford’s agent finally called to say they had warmed up to the idea. “I was star-struck,” Kopelson admits.

Andrew Davis was hired to direct this cat-and-mouse thriller, recruiting Tommy Lee Jones, cast as Deputy US Marshal Sam ‘Bulldog’ Gerard, Kimble’s relentless pursuer. Jones had worked in two of his previous films, “Under Siege” and “The Package.” His performance is crusty and humorous, with several memorable lines, many of which were cooked up on set the day of shooting. Jones, a Harvard English literature grad, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor; “The Fugitive” was nominated for six more Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Once filming began, Warner Brothers studio executive Bob Daly was livid that Ford’s face was covered by a beard and mustache. Daly had a studio rule that none of his leading men could wear facial hair; he was paying good money and wanted his stars to be recognized, Ford says. But 20-plus minutes into the film, Daly got his wish. The actor shaves off his beard and is clearly Harrison Ford.

EXTRAS

Additional extras include two featurettes “On the Run with the Fugitive” and “Derailed: Anatomy of a Train Wreck” carried over from previous editions, and a commentary with Davis and Jones talking about the location of many key scenes (it’s almost a travelogue of Davis’ beloved Chicago). The duo also reveal their pick for the unsung hero of getting “The Fugitive” to the silver screen. And who was that? Harrison Ford.

He chose the director, did his own stunts, helped salvage the script, and still says, “We made it up as we went along.”

— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer




Dr. Kimble is on the run



 


“We have a gopher” - Barkley Dam

The Cheoah Dam on the Little Tennessee River in North Carolina subs for the Barkley Dam.




 



Dr. Kimble continues his search for the killer





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