Click here to learn more about anamorphic widescreen!
Go to the Home Page
Go to The Rumor Mill
Go to Todd Doogan's weekly column
Go to the Reviews Page
Go to the Trivia Contest Page
Go to the Upcoming DVD Artwork Page
Go to the DVD FAQ & Article Archives
Go to our DVD Links Section
Go to the Home Theater Forum for great DVD discussion
Find out how to advertise on The Digital Bits

Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/3/01

The Fugitive
Special Edition - 1993 (2001) - Warner Bros.

review by Brian Ford Sullivan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Fugitive: Special Edition Program Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A-/B+

Specs and Features

130 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:13:27, in chapter 26), Snapper case packaging, audio commentary by director Andrew Davis and actor Tommy Lee Jones, introduction by the cast and crew, 2 featurettes (Derailed: Anatomy of a Train Wreck and On the Run), cast and crew biographies, awards list, teaser trailer, film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (42 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and French, Closed Captioned

Despite the failure of such efforts as U.S. Marshals and the CBS adaptation of this story (featuring Tim Daly, this past season), within minutes of watching the 1993 Oscar nominated film version of The Fugitive, it's no wonder that those attempts were made (and likely will continue to be made). Quite simply, The Fugitive is one of (if not the) best action/adventure films of the 1990s. Featuring an intelligent script, ambitious direction by Andrew Davis (Under Siege) and magnetic chemistry between the two leads (Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble and Tommy Lee Jones as Samuel Gerard) despite the two only sharing the screen briefly, The Fugitive has absolutely everything you could possibly want in an action film.

The story we all know: wealthy, well-respected Dr. Richard Kimble is framed for murdering his wife (Once and Again's Sela Ward) and, after an accident during a routine prison transfer, makes a daring escape to freedom. With only a few clues about his wife's one-armed assailant (Babylon 5's Andreas Katsulas), Kimble sets out to prove his innocence and bring the real killer to justice. Pursuing him though is the talented and relentless U.S. Marshall Sam Gerard and his crew, who don't care if he's innocent or not. What unfolds is a testament to what a well-written script and tight direction can do for an action-based film. There's nothing quite like being surprised by the mystery and marveling at the clever nature of the characters in order to spend an evening.

When The Fugitive was originally released as one of Warner's first DVDs back in 1997, it lacked anything beyond press kit clippings (not even a trailer) when it came to extras. Thankfully, Warner has re-issued the DVD with a new high-definition transfer and a healthy dose of extras. And while I haven't seen the original DVD release, I can tell you that the current one looks magnificent. Featuring a bright, revealing transfer, a nice natural color balance, an almost complete lack of artifacting and excellent black levels, I haven't seen an action-based DVD look this good in a while. By tossing the pan and scan version from the original release and expanding the letterbox version across two layers (one can only imagine what a 130-minute film looks like stuck on one layer), it's obvious that these changes are a very good thing. The only noticeable downside to the new disc's picture quality is some grain that I'd assume we can toss up to age. Outside of that, this disc looks terrific.

Now let's talk audio. The Fugitive was one of the first films to be released in Dolby Digital 5.1 in theatres and, with the lack of Dolby Digital on laserdisc, the film's DVD release was the first time someone could hear the original audio mix at home the way it was played in theatres. This mix never sounded better than it does on this disc. It's not necessarily flashy or intense, but the sound is clear and natural without being intrusive.

While we all love video and audio enhancements, a special edition isn't complete without a nice bevy of extras. That's exactly the case here. The big draw obviously is a feature-length commentary by Davis and Jones, although it's Davis who really runs the show here. The commentary was recorded while the two were connected via telephone, and Jones is noticeably silent unless prompted by Davis to contribute. That said, this is probably one of the most interesting and revealing commentaries I've listened to in quite some time. Chief of among the tidbits dropped by Davis is that the majority of the film was unscripted, and dialogue was simply all ad-libbed or derived on the set by the actors. Davis notes how, in the interrogation room scene in the beginning of the film, Ford insisted on not being told what he was going to be asked... the surprising result of which shows why Ford is one of the best and most well-respected actors out there. The same goes for Jones and his crew, whose banter was all created on the fly - something again that is quite surprising to me. None of this is a slam against screenwriters David Twohy and Jeb Stuart (who obviously created the clever plot), but I definitely appreciated the film on a completely different level thanks to this revelation.

Davis also spends some time talking about footage that didn't make the final cut (and some that was planned but not shot). Chief among this footage is a sub-plot of Julianne Moore's character becoming romantically involved with Kimble. It was eventually decided that it would be too much to throw a romance into the mix with the other elements already in the film. Most of the other footage mentioned is extended versions of scenes. Unfortunately, none of this footage is on this disc, which is disappointing. Davis also mentions that Jeroen Krabbé was a last minute addition to the cast - he replaced the actor originally intended to play Dr. Charles Nichols. The commentary also features a video introduction (essentially the first few minutes of the commentary between Davis and Jones, along with taped footage of Ford).

Also included on the disc are two featurettes made specifically for this DVD release. The first is On the Run, a surprisingly interesting behind-the-scenes featurette that talks about different aspects of the production, including the importance of shooting in Chicago and specific action sequences. It runs 23 minutes. The other featurette is Derailed: Anatomy of a Train Wreck, which focuses completely on the memorable escape sequence early in the film. Surprisingly, while the final product looks like it was done with miniatures, the train collision was actually shot for real. A crewmember here reveals that part of this sequence was fixed digitally specifically for this DVD release. It runs about nine minutes.

Rounding out the disk is the film's theatrical teaser trailer (the full trailer is absent), cast and crew biographies and a list of awards garnered by the film. All in all, this disc would make a very good addition to your collection. An excellent new transfer and a nice bevy of extras perfectly fit this engaging action film.

Brian Ford Sullivan

E-mail the Bits!

Don't #!@$ with the Monkey! Site designed for 800 x 600 resolution, using 16M colors and .gif 89a animation.
© 1997-2015 The Digital Bits, Inc., All Rights Reserved.