Thursday, August 26, 2004

the fugitive

before i go on, allow me to express a concern. thus far i've only focussed on films full of 'leading men'. films about men. 'the thin red line' is a male film. indeed, the actress miranda otto i mentioned in my review below is one of about 2 women in that entire film - & she has about three lines total (voiceover lines at that). kubrick - who i've only just started celebrating, let me assure you - basically all his films are about men. which is why nicole kidman seems so strikingly odd the first time you see her in 'eyes wide shut'. it was the first time stanley had given a woman a real defining role in a film. not THE defining role, tho - cruise is the jet-black-haired centrepoint of that brilliant rainbow dream of a movie. it's gotta be said - women very much took a back seat to men in the majority of kubrick's films. shelley duvall, who played jack nicholson's wife in 'the shining', she's interestingly stated on occasions that her character never really got a chance to evolve over the course of filming - indeed she found working on 'the shining' to be one of the most emotionally exhausting experiences of her life, since she basically just ran around screaming/bawling hysterically the entire time.

just sitting back & thinking this over again, though, i guess kubrick did, on occasion, give women strangely powerful minor roles in his films. one is reminded of the aggressive & flexible 'cat woman' in 'a clockwork orange', who is eventually bludgeoned to death by an enormous penis sculpture. one is reminded of barry lyndon's mother in 'barry lyndon', a vital, subtly domineering woman. one is reminded of the vietnamese sniper in 'full metal jacket', around whose dying body the film's stilted, disappointing climax occurs.

all interesting characters, no doubt. the fact remains, though, that when one thinks of kubrick's films, one thinks instantly of male roles, male characters, male tales. has my love of kubrick thus affected my general filmic taste? i fancy so. grant me another indulgence, then - i want to celebrate another utterly male-dominated film, 1994's 'the fugitive'.

'the fugitive' is formulaic detective/mystery drama at its absolute peak. it just doesn't miss a beat. i know nothing of the original tv series. perhaps this ignorance makes things all the more compelling.

i recall when this film was up for best picture nomination at the oscars alongside, from memory, 'pulp fiction', 'schindler's list' & a few other movies. ah, 1994, back when the oscars seemed such an annual cultural pinnacle for this weird 12 year old. the academy figured 'the fugitive's' worth in its action-packed dramatic explosiveness. bah. the train-crashing-into-bus sequence, the promos ran, was surely one of the best action sequences ever. bah. the jumping-off-dam stunt one of the most daring stunts ever attempted on film. bah.

for mine there's really subtle, background reasons as to why this film remains a winner. for starters, let's not doubt it - the film REALLY swings into gear the moment tommy lee jones steps out of his U.S. marshal's car & states, hard-texas-workin-man-sardonically, 'my, my, my, what a mess'. in a wonderful, wonderful 2-3 minute sequence, he not only comandeers the escaped fugitive case from a befuddled local trooper, everything about his character comes into focus. he's a smart, proficient, coolly intelligent man. one's tempted to label him an 'intelligent bastard', but he never struck me as a bastard in this film. he's certainly not a 'bad guy'. indeed we end up loving him just as much as the anxiously intelligent harrison ford character. the director/writer does well not to paint jones with a 'bad guy' brush. early on, giving us glimpses of the way he interacts with his loyal support team, for example, the viewer suddenly starts thinking 'hey hang on - this is the bloke who's supposed to be hunting our innocent hero? but he's a decent fella, if not a tad obsessive! what's going on?'

but it's that support crew i want to waffle about a bit more. harrison is less of a figurehead in this film than a fleeting, verbally stifled & shocked professional on the run (he does it well). he needed a good support cast, & he got one. lee jones won an oscar for best supporting actor, first & foremost, but it's the really minor support characters who, i feel, make the film. we've got lee jones's detective crew, most of whom we get to know on a first-name basis by the end of the film. they deliver their lines with a cool proficiency. they are like mini-lee-jones's. all the interaction is great. the scene in which they analyse the harrison ford telephone recording - locked inside a nicely-lit conference room, it's as if all the minor characters are mental projections of lee jones, working quickly, sophisticatedly to figure out what this recording's all about. great scene.

i'll write some more tomorrow.


Post a Comment

<< Home

visitors since 26 august 04