Replacing their original release of "The Fugitive" from 1997, Warner Home Video is now presenting a Special Edition of Andrew Davisí gripping action-thriller with a brand new transfer of the film and some exciting bonus materials. Opening with a new 2-minute introduction to the film by director Andrew Davis, Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, it quickly becomes obvious that this release is an exciting addition to any DVD library despite the fact that is still a bit slim in special features compared to other current Special Editions. Nonetheless, I was excited to get the chance to take a first-hand look at this new DVD from Warner Home Video.
Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) is an honored Chicago surgeon who suddenly finds himself the prime suspect in the murder case of his own wife (Sela Ward). In vain, Kimble tries to convince the officials of his innocence but all the evidence points to him as the killer and no one seems willing to believe his story of a one-armed murderer. During a transport, a number of fellow convicts stage a break-out and Kimble manages to escape on his own, but immediately he has Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) on his heels, an experienced U.S. Marshal and one of the forceís most notorious bloodhounds. Dead-set on bringing Kimble to justice, he makes the once-respected surgeon the target of a massive manhunt that takes both to the brink of their physical abilities and mangles their spirits. Will Kimble be able to find the one-armed man who actually committed the crime before time runs out and Gerard catches up with him?
Based on the 60s TV series by the same name, "The Fugitive" is an explosive feature film version of the story that takes the manhunt genre to new extremes. There is not a minute where the tension isnít so thick that you could cut it. Portrayed by an extremely capable cast, the film brings to life the characters of the story in an incredible dimension, as Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford try to find justice - each in their own and very different perception.
"The Fugitive" features some breath-taking stunts that propel the story forward in regular intervals but ultimately it is the beautiful photography, the masterful storytelling and the dramatic editing that makes "The Fugitive" a memorable movie experience.
The DVD gives us a very clean presentation of "The Fugitive" in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio in a transfer that is enhanced for 16x9 television sets. When compared to the previously released DVD transfer, it is immediately obvious, just how much better this new version of the film looks. The print is free of grain or noise and reveals an incredible level of detail that was somehow missing from the previous release. Every bit of image information is perfectly captured in this transfer and even the darkest and most gloomy scenes of the film with very little contrast reveal an incredible faithfulness and definition. There is not a hint of dot crawl or noise in any of these scenes, making it a beautiful presentation to behold. Colors are also vibrant and vividly rendered, while blacks are deep and solid, without breaking up. There are no noticeable signs of edge-enhancement in the transfer, giving the entire presentation a very film-like look that is smooth, yet sharp, and highly detailed. The compression is absolutely flawless and not a hint of compression artifacting distracts from the movie youíre watching.
"The Fugitive" comes with a full-bodied 5.1 channel Dolby Digital audio track, as well as a French Dolby Surround track. Given the dynamic nature of the film and the many explosive moments in the movie, a wide dynamic range is essential for a proper presentation of this movie. Fortunately the Dolby Digital track does not disappoint a bit. With a wide frequency response it manages to accurately reproduce the clean high ends of the audio while giving the track a lot of punch through the frequent engagement of the LFE channel. Surround usage is also very aggressive and dynamic, creating a soundtrack that pays full justice to the furious nature of the film itself. Dialogues are nicely integrated and always understandable without being drowned out by the sound effects - although on some occasions it is required to listen carefully.
James Newton Howard has contributed a powerful score to "The Fugitive" and it is also reproduced in all its glory on this DVD. The mix is wide and makes also good use of the surround channels to create an enveloping sound stage for the music that puts the viewer right in the center of the action.
The centerpiece of the bonus materials on this DVD is a commentary track featuring director Andrew Davis and actor Tommy Lee Jones. The commentary is informative and entertaining, offering a lot of insight into the production itself, as well as some excursions into the characters and the people involved. Interestingly, this commentary has been recorded as a phone conversation between the participants, it seems. Donít expect narrow banded AF-quality though, as both Davis and Jones have been recorded separately as they were talking, leaving the spontaneity and their interaction fully intact, while at the same time managing to have a high level of recording quality. Andrew Davis is covering the majority of the commentary but Tommy Lee Jones contributes quite a bit in his sly, restrained and witty manner. Check this track out! It is full of great information and details.
Two featurettes can also be found on this DVD. One of the key scenes in the movie is when Richard Kimble escapes from the prison truck, just as a train hits the wreck that is lying on the rails. The first featurette on the disc covers the making of that particular scene in detail with cast and crew interviews and exciting behind-the-scenes footage. Since the film was done before the era when all effects were achieved digitally, it is especially exciting to see how the filmmakers staged a real train crash that is so perfectly choreographed and executed. Make sure to take a look at this 7-minute featurette. It is a rush, just like the scene itself!
The second is a 25-minute featurette called "On The Run." It is a promotional production featurette with a number of cast and crew interviews and a good portion of behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the movie. Like the commentary track it covers a number of the same aspects, such as the casting, the general ideas that drove the film as well as some production issues, but it also covers additional sides of the production, such as technical aspects of the shooting of the film, and the approach to creating the vivid imagery. Although you wonít find real hard-core information here, this featurette is an entertaining addition to the DVD.
The discís introduction is also accessible from the Special Features menu, where you will also find the movieís theatrical trailer, cast and crew biographies and a page recognizing the awards the film has garnered.
One could certainly argue that "The Fugitive" is slim for a Special Edition, but letís face it; ultimately it is the quality of the bonus materials and not the quantity that make a good release. In this case, Warner Home Video has assembled a few very good extras, which give viewers good information about the production of the film. Even more importantly however, "The Fugitive" comes as a spectacularly riveting presentation on this DVD that brings home the movie in all its nail-biting intensity. You have to get his disc!