Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ten Statements About....THE FUGITIVE (1993)

"For the last time, I am NOT The Unabomber!"
"Listen up, ladies and gentlemen. Our fugitive has been on the run for 90 minutes. Average foot speed over uneven ground barring injuries is four miles an hour. That gives up a radius of six miles. What I want out of each and every one of you is a hard target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, townhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area. Checkpoints go up to 15 miles. Your fugitive's name is Dr. Richard Kimble. Go get him."

1) You want to know how to write an effective suspense thriller? You set up a smart, resourceful character. You put him in an untenable situation. You sic an equally smart resourceful character on his tail....and you don't let up.

2) The reason why Harrison Ford worked so well as an actor at this period is the tension between his worn, sad face and his physicality. And I'm not talking about big fighty-fighty stuff; I'm talking about simple things like the way he runs, or the way he knocks someone's arm off his shoulder with such conviction. The combination of these two qualities give him an everyman vibe that allows so many people to identify with him.

On his off days, Tommy Lee Jones liked to dress up as a
homeless man and harass redheads for being the spawn
of the devil....
3) But don't get me wrong--this film is owned by Tommy Lee Jones. From the moment he steps into the frame, he makes us watch him no matter where we go. And most importantly...

4) The script by Jeb Stuart and David Twohy (soon to carve out a filmmaking career of his own after this) is hyper-efficient in defining his characters. Sure, we know very little about Ford's Kimble, and even less about Jones' Gerard, but we know what these characters are about, what their motivations are, and what their desires are. We find these character relatable without forcing far too much backstory on their, well, back.

5) Ahhhh, Jeron I wish you had more of an American career like your friend Rutger Hauer. Sure, your role is relatively small in this film, but you are the best when it comes to being oily and smug...and when Ford beats you up, it's just sooooo satisfying....

6) On a related, it's so weird seeing Jane Lynch playing someone who's not evil and wants to make teens unhappy.

If you don't acknowledge his smugness, Jeron Crabbe
will hit you with his girder...
7) You know, at first I was wondering why Sela Ward was so prominent in the cast list, as she spends literally the entire film as a corpse, whereas Julianne Moore's name is way down...but in retrospect, the script gives Ward an integral position as a sort of ghost that drives Dr. Kimble forward on his quest, and Moore's role is just to scowl, yell at Ford and snap at Jones. So, you know, their position is valid after all.

8) The script is so good that even Gerard's support staff--and there are a lot of staff he has in support--has little grace notes that give us very clear idea of where they're coming from.

9) However...if there's one weakness, it's in the portrayal of the Chicago cops. I understand that this is for expediency's sake--after all, the script gets the story into high gear very, very quickly--but the sharpness of the other characterization makes the one-sidedness of the cops seem like plastic caricatures.

10) Yes, the solution starts coming out of left field--an argument can be made that on some level this has the whiff of 'Just Go With It'....but the pacing is such I have to wonder if this was brought up to create a MacGuffin-esque Hitchcock angle to the film. excellent suspenser that works due to a great script, some exceptional casting, and even more exceptional characterization.

1 comment:

  1. I agree totally about Harrison Ford's physicality. When his character is supposed to be in pain, Ford actually looks like he's in pain. And next to Pierce Brosnan, he's one of the best runners in movies. When he runs like his ass in on fire, he convinces me that he's actually running from something.