"The Fugitive" (1993 Film) Talkback (Spoilers)

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
Jan 19, 2004
Framingham, MA
The Fugitive (1993)

Maybe this movie did not deserve on Oscar. It didn't get one. But I understand why it was nominated. Oscar nominations are sorely lacking in, for lack of a better word "good movies". Because of that, an Oscar telecast will often have dirt low ratings because nobody cares about any of the supposed "great films" up for the awards. Back in the 1990's or so, the Academy would throw audiences who love good movies a bone and nominate a popular film that happened to awesome. It almost never won, but people tuned into the Oscars fruitlessly hoping it would.

If it had been going up against any other movie but Schindler's List, I would have been rooting for it too. Considering the grim premise, it's SUCH a fun movie.

Tommy Lee Jones got a lot of praise for his role as Sam Gerard and it's deserved. What's neat about the film is that Gerard IS the antagonist, but also a good guy, so you go back and forth between rooting for him and Richard Kimble. Sam Gerard is also SMART. The movie allows us to see him working out that Kimble is innocent as it goes along. I haven't seen the TV show in ages, but I seem to recall Philip Gerard was kind of a turd. Sam Gerard claims he doesn't care in one of this movie's most famous scenes. But it's a lie. Philip on the other hand is unreasonable and unwilling to listen. It's essentially why it took Richard Kimble four seasons and 120 episodes to prove his innocence on the TV show and 2 hours in the movie.

I love that when Kimble jumps into the waterfall, Gerard smiles. That's a turning point. He LIKES Kimble then. He respects him now. And that is the thing that will lead him to the truth.

His tart reply to the dumb cop insisting Kimble is dead is both great and the right answer: "Then he'll be easy to catch." If Gerard and the other Marshals were as lazy as the Chicago cops, Kimble wouldn't have needed to prove his innocence. He would have gotten away Scott-free.

The Chicago cops are portrayed as incompetent going on corrupt but I will slightly correct the film there. Based on that evidence Kimble should have been convicted. But the truth is there would have been room for reasonable doubt if Kimble had acted like a person who was grieving in his interrogation. He may have been shell-shocked, but his lack of emotion and humanity as he's being questioned is truly the thing that led the cops to believe it was him. If he were upset, it's possible the police might have been willing to also explore other leads and question why the evidence was what it was.

Seeing this again reminds me why I've always loved this franchise, and also why I hope it doesn't get a REAL reboot. In the movie Kimble has the exact same fatal flaw he did on the TV show. Namely, he can't help but stop and help people in trouble, even if it puts his freedom at serious risk. That's why he's noble and why we root for him. If you handed a producer in 2021 a mandate to reboot the franchise, there is no question in my mind this aspect of Kimble, which was the best part of the show and the movie, would be dropped entirely. Instead, a modern showrunner would have him doing increasingly criminal and sketchy things to avoid capture and make that specific "controversy" something the audience would morally question. Modern producers want us to always feel bad about anything we watch. We aren't allowed or supposed to enjoy anything. And that's partly why I dislike modern television, and why the old show and shows like Star Trek had value. Kimble has the deck stacked against him, and even so refuses to lose his principles, and STILL earns his freedom without doing so. A Fugitive series would not work in the present day, because no modern producer believes in that ideal anymore.

I hear there was a spiritual successor in 2020 using different characters, but I haven't seen that. It was also a short-form series so it's possible the worries I detailed above weren't relevant.

Back when Roy Huggins pitched the series in the 1960's, a network exec famously stormed out of the room while declaring the very concept Unamerican, while another suit immediately whispered to Huggins it was the best idea for a TV show he ever heard of. And the reason the series ISN'T Unamerican or anti-police is because Kimble tries to work within the system whenever possible to prove his innocence. And I don't see a modern producer interested in telling that kind of story. And modern television is worse for that fact.

An interesting and good thing about the movie is that usually stuff in the 1980's and 1990's has a TON of cringy stuff like homophobic, racist, and sexist slurs. Making fun of the mentally challenged using the R word was common too. There was thankfully none of that in this movie. About the only thing that wouldn't pass modern day muster is that Gerard enjoys a cigar at one point. Everything else is refreshingly unobjectionable.

When the cops surrounded Kimble's apartment I knew they weren't actually there for him. Because then they would have caught him. He was in a pretty cornered spot just then.

I loved when Kimble tells the cop at the train station that there's a guy behind him yelling and waving a gun, and the cops then tackle a screaming Gerard. I'll grant it was a smart move. But it was also a buttholish, unfair one. It was quite hilarious.

The prison guard taking credit for saving the life of the guy Kimble actually did is why the deck is so stacked against Kimble to begin with. The cops in the movie increasingly made me madder and madder. It's the federal marshals who are the actual good lawmen.

Do I have any complaints about the film? Yes, and this complaint happens SO early on I was seriously worried I was gonna have to wind up MST3K-ing a movie I enjoyed very much when it was first released. But the charity being called the "Children's Research Aid Foundation" is the kind of shoddy writing I mock plenty of projects for. I am very glad it was the only thing like that in the entire movie, and a little bit disturbed that it occurred so early on. It had me worried for hot minute.

So, yeah, that was a good movie. And as far as good movies go, it was a great good movie. But good movies don't win Oscars, not even great good ones. Maybe the Academy needs to rethink that policy. *****.


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