Let’s not waste any time on introductions. If you read Part 1, you know we’re talking about the 21 most satisfying moments in The Fugitive. We ended at #7 last time, and we’ll pick right up with #8.
8. I Don’t Bargain
It’s a beautiful setup. Kimble barely managed to get away from Gerard, and he went on to change his hair color and get a ride from some random woman. The next thing we see is Gerard and his men declaring they’ve tracked “him” down after he shacked up with some babe. They never define who “he” is, but we assume it’s Kimble because he’s the only one we’ve seen them doggedly pursuing. But it’s not.
We had almost forgotten about Copeland. It’s perfect because as soon as Gerard breaks down the door to a house and runs inside, we instantly see a familiar face jump out of bed and prepare for battle. And it’s not Kimble.
The rest of the scene plays out amazingly. We get to see the lengths Gerard will go to in order to get his man. He’s not afraid to put his own men in peril to avoid bargaining with someone he sees as entirely guilty and unworthy of mercy. Our fear for Kimble’s safety only increases as a result of Gerard’s ruthlessness. And yet, our respect for Gerard also grows as a result of this scene. It’s not that he’s a monster, but that he’s an unstoppable force who just needs to be pointed in the right direction to be a force for good.
9. Elevated Train
Establishing shots aren’t usually the focal point of a scene. The drama is. In the case of Kimble’s call to his lawyer from a payphone, the establishing shot is everything, but that doesn’t become clear until later. We slowly pan down from a shot of a passing train on an elevated platform to Kimble on a payphone. Sure, his conversation is important, since it shows that he can’t count on even his most trusted friends and that he’s trying to throw people off by claiming to be in St. Louis when we can clearly see “Illinois Bell” on the phone as he hangs up. But in the very next scene, we see Gerard’s team listening to a recording of the conversation.
This demonstrates that Gerard made good on an earlier promise to get a phone tap on Kimble’s lawyer. Again, the film is rewarding us for paying attention to even small pieces of dialogue in between action sequences. But this also rewards us for paying attention to the visual storytelling, too, because when one U.S. Marshal suggests that the train in the background could be an elevated train, we know he’s not lying. If we were watching closely, that is. Seeing the others put the pieces together to finally conclude that Kimble is in the same city as them, Chicago, is icing on the cake. I admit I wasn’t smart enough to pick up on that detail the first time I saw The Fugitive, so I had to puzzle through it alongside the rest of them. But it’s awesome on rewatches to feel smart for being one step ahead of such sharp experts.
10. House Raid
The raid on the house Kimble has been living in is one of the finest examples of misdirection I’ve ever seen. It’s not a dream sequence, nor is it any other kind of total fake-out. The police are actually raiding the house, but their target isn’t Kimble. It’s terrifying because we feel like we’ve been lulled into a state of security by how blind everyone has been to Kimble so far. The movie may have pulled the rug out from under us by putting us on the other side of the scene with Copeland. He didn’t see it coming, and neither did Kimble.
Thankfully, the police are doing a drug raid in which the landlord’s son gets arrested. We only got to see him once in an earlier scene, but he came across as shady enough for us to believe he’d be guilty of a serious crime. He later tells the police that Kimble is staying in his mother’s basement that night, but for now Kimble is able to thank his lucky stars he’s not the one being whisked away in handcuffs.
11. Saving Joel’s Life
Kimble takes many calculated risks over the course of The Fugitive to prove his innocence. But he’s not purely self-interested. We figure that out early on when he nearly dies trying to save the life of an officer on the bus who would gladly put Kimble back behind bars if he had the power. The next time we see Kimble prove his selfless goodness comes when he is trying to sneak out of a hospital with a newly printed list of five one-armed men who may have been responsible for his wife’s murder.
He’s dressed as a janitor, and his way is once again barred by numerous police officers, so he stops and hugs the wall next to one of many children who were involved in a school-bus crash. Unfortunately, the doctors on duty are overwhelmed by the sudden influx of patients, so they can’t give enough attention to the boy suffering next to Kimble. When a doctor fails to properly diagnose the boy’s serious symptoms, the head doctor asks Kimble to take the boy to an observation room. On the way, he reexamines the boy’s X-rays and figures out that he needs major surgery immediately or else he’ll die. None of this helps Kimble achieve his goals or get away. In fact, it puts him in great danger. But it’s in his nature to help others. Even when the doctor discovers he hadn’t followed her orders and she calls security, he apologizes to some pedestrians as he hurries past them toward the emergency exit.
This act of heroism and mercy is enough to make someone as hardened as Gerard start to question his assumptions about Kimble.
12. Surrounded by Police
There are so many rewarding moments during the sequence when Kimble goes to see Clive Driscoll. We’ll begin with the elevator. Kimble, a wanted felon, is just casually walking into a high-security prison to see if Driscoll is responsible for his wife’s murder. He decides to enter an empty elevator and instantly regrets that decision when cop after cop piles in. Pretty soon the entire elevator is filled with people who could arrest him on the spot if they merely recognize his face. He has nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
Thankfully, we don’t have to spend the whole awkward elevator ride worrying about Kimble. The police filter out, and he is able to make his getaway. After a brief conversation with Driscoll, Kimble wisely decides to take the stairs. We get to pat ourselves on the back for recognizing why he’s not going into an elevator. He doesn’t know, but we do, that he may very well have been caught by Gerard’s men who were planning on coming up on the elevator at that moment. So he was wise to start walking down the stairs. But we also know that Gerard is going up the stairs, which ratchets up the tension for an imminent collision. But we’ll get to the payoff of that particular rewarding moment next.
13. Using Police to His Advantage
How do you get away from someone when you have to avoid drawing attention to yourself at the same time? That’s the dilemma Kimble finds himself in as soon as Gerard spots him and starts chasing him down a staircase. Kimble does his best to run down the stairs, but as soon as he gets into an open hallway, he sticks out like a sore thumb when he tries to desperately get away. He has to slow himself down to a reasonable gait as he does his best to blend in with the crowd.
It’s kind of funny and really scary at the same time that Kimble can’t just run flat-out when that’s what he wants more than anything to do. How does he solve this problem? By using his brain! He uses the excessive number of police officers to his advantage by informing them that there’s a man in a topcoat behind him who’s screaming and waving a gun at a woman. That’s enough to get all of the police officers to grab Gerard and prevent him from pursuing Kimble. It doesn’t last forever, but it gives Kimble just enough time to get some badly needed distance in between him and his pursuer. It’s so satisfying to see him cleverly use what should be impediments to enable him to escape.
14. Bulletproof Glass
The next rewarding moment comes immediately after. They’re so rapid fire in this section of the movie. Gerard’s men appear and tell the officers that he’s a U.S. Marshal, and they’ve been deceived. As soon as Kimble realizes his cover has been blown, he makes a mad dash for a rapidly closing security door. It closes on him, but he manages to squeeze most of the way through. Only his foot is stuck in the door.
Everyone else gets out of the way in a hurry because Gerard is pointing his gun directly at Kimble. He doesn’t hesitate to fire multiple shots. Kimble is just as shocked as the audience that he’s still alive until he grasps that the door is made of bulletproof glass. Gerard mouthing a silent swear word just cements the fact that he knows Kimble has just slipped through his grasp once more. This also clears up any misunderstanding in the audience’s mind what Gerard’s intentions are. If he can’t arrest Kimble, he’s going to kill him as soon as he gets a clear shot. The only reason Kimble is alive is because he managed to squeeze into a safe position.
Sorry to Leave You in Suspense
I apologize for ending right in the middle of a suspenseful scene, but that’s just the way it goes this time. Don’t worry, though. Part 3 will come out in a week to finally put a fork in this long article. But it’ll be worth it because everything in this movie has a satisfying payoff, especially its ending.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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