The Fugitive
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Fugitive can be found here.

Noted Chicago surgeon Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford), wrongly convicted of brutally murdering his wife Helen (Sela Ward), escapes during transport and attempts to elude U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) while trying to prove his innocence and find the one-armed man who really killed his wife.

The Fugitive was a TV series that ran from 1963-1967. It was created by American writer Roy Huggins [1914-2002]. It was rumored that Huggins based the show on the real-life story of Sam Sheppard, a doctor who was accused of murdering his wife and spent 10 years in the Ohio Penitentiary before his conviction was overturned, but Huggins has denied basing his series on Sheppard's case. Huggins has also said the series was loosely inspired by Les Miserables, with Kimble as the Jean Valjean character and Gerard as the Javert character. In fact, the name "Gerard" was chosen to be phonetically similar to Javert. The TV series was adapted for this movie by American screenwriters David Twohy and Jeb Stuart.

(1) The only fingerprints found on the gun belonged to Kimble, and his fingerprints were on the bullets that killed Helen. Kimble admits to owning the gun when questioned by the police. (2) Kimble's skin was found under Helen's fingernails. It was left there when she scratched him while he was trying to move her, presumably to put her in a better position to administer CPR. (3) There was no forced entry into the house like a burglar or murderer would have done to get inside. (4) Kimble himself is the sole beneficiary of Helen's life insurance policy. The police mention this fact to him during the questioning, but it isn't mentioned in the brief court scene. (5) The 911 call Helen made, which was recorded by the emergency service AND was also recorded by the killer on the phone that Helen used to make the call. The prosecution is able to convince the jury that when Helen says "There's someone in my house...Richard...he's trying to kill me," that she was talking about (not to) her husband.

No. Although Helen does say "Richard" during the 911 call, she was actually calling out to her husband to help her, perhaps having heard him just entering the house. Some have suggested that the One-Armed Man, Frederick Sykes (Andreas Katsulas), allowed her to make the call and may even have forced her to say Richard's name. Still, it's easy to see how the courts would think differently from the call.

In one of the commentaries, the director said there was a scene that was cut where Kimble goes into a drug store and buys the hair dye. They cut it because they figured most people would assume he bought it somewhere on the way to the truck stop.

The audience knows long before Richard puts the pieces together concerning his framing that he's been wrongly convicted. So, when Richard tells Gerard "I didn't kill my wife!!", while pointing Gerard's lost pistol at him, he's incorrectly assuming that Gerard will somehow be sympathetic to his plight, but Gerard does not know that Richard is innocent. Gerard's duty as a US Marshal is simply to recapture Richard and return him to prison. However, while searching for Richard, Gerard questions Richard's professional associates, his lawyer, and his friends and finds that the case is much more complicated and that Richard might be telling the truth. Gerard is under NO obligation to prove Richard's innocence but discovers clues that may point to that. A turn of events like this seems to be intriguing to Gerard, and he continues to investigate. Also, we know by the time the drain tunnel scene takes place that Gerard and his team are VERY good at their jobs and that Gerard can be very calculating and even cold in his work. Telling Richard that he doesn't care is also a way to heighten the drama between the two characters.

She was just a nameless good Samaritan who offered him a ride. In one of the commentaries, the director alludes to a deleted scene in which the woman is a waitress at the truck stop diner. The scene was cut because it slowed the pacing of that part of the movie and it was easier for the audience to simply assume she was a good Samaritan. Later, when Gerard's team is meeting at their office, one of them says something like "He's shacked up." The assumption is that Kimble might have gone with the woman to her house and either just stayed there in hiding or could have gone to bed with her. As it turns out, the team wasn't talking about Kimble and were gearing up to go after Copeland, the other escapee from the train wreck.

As Kimble steps out of the line and starts walking away from the parade, you can see that the man walking next to him is carrying the coat in his left hand.

Joel (Joel Robinson)'s actual problem is never explained in the movie. The best guess, made by some viewers with medical training, is that he had a tear in his aorta. A tear like this would cause blood to spill into the chest cavity, causing severe breathing difficulties. The diagnosis of an aortic tear is further supported on the sheet where Kimble changes Joel's diagnosis. It appears to say "Depress Chest w/Poss FX" (fracture), and the diagram on the same sheet appears to say "Chest Trauma Poss Fx Sternum." When Kimble changes the order, he begins with the letters "AO" which are the first two letters of "aorta." An aortic tear requires immediate surgery. With all the havoc going on in the emergency room at the time, Kimble was probably afraid that no one would diagnose the problem correctly and get Joel into the OR in time to save him. While he watches the doctor examining Joel, Kimble mutters "Check the film...". He saw that the doc wasn't looking closely enough at the x-ray and misdiagnosed the boy. This diagnosis of a tear in the aorta is supported in the novelization.

Why was Helen murdered?

Actually, it was Dr. Kimble that was the intended target, not Helen. Sykes had been hired by Dr Charles Nichols to kill Richard. Pay close attention: at the fundraiser, Nichols gives Richard back the keys to his car after having borrowed it. The events of the rest of the night are assumed when Gerard is looking over the phone records: Nichols phones Sykes from Kimble's car and then stops at the house to unlock the door. The plan was to kill Richard after he and Helen came home from the benefit. Unfortunately, Richard is called away to assist at a surgery. When Sykes gets there, Helen is the only one at home. Why Sykes kills Helen instead is unknown. Did she walk in and surprise Sykes? Did Sykes decide to frame Richard for murder? Or did he plan on killing both Helen and Richard to eliminate any potential witnesses? The answer is never revealed. Later in the movie, when Kimble asks that same question, "Why Helen?", he gets no answer either.

Because he was beginning to suspect that Provasic, the new wonder drug being developed by the Devlin MacGregor Pharmaceutical Company, was not so wonderful at all. Kimble was seeing more and more of the patients in the Provasic research program coming to surgery with severely damaged livers. The very night of Helen's murder, in fact, Kimble was called to perform surgery on yet another Provasic patient. The claim that the drug worked with no side effects, which Kimble was going to challenge, would have halted the release of the drug for general use and cost the drug company millions.

He starts to make the connection when he finds the photo of Sykes and Dr Alec Lentz, the head of MacGregor Pharmaceuticals, together. Kimble suddenly realizes that he himself was the intended target, not Helen, because of what he suspected about Provasic causing liver damage. At first, Kimble thinks it was Lentz who ordered the hit on him, until his friend and colleague, Dr Charles Nichols (Jeroen Krabbé) informs him that Lentz was killed in a car accident last summer. Kimble asks Nichols to give him access to the catalogued tissue samples in the Pathology Lab and then learns that healthy samples have been substituted for diseased samples. When Dr Wahlund (Jane Lynch) shows him that half of the samples Lentz approved were signed on the day he died and suggests that the samples could only have been approved by someone else who had access, the puzzle is complete -- because there was only one other person who had that access.

How does the movie end?

Kimble walks into the conference room where Nichols is speaking about the virtues of Provasic. Kimble confronts Nichols with the fact that he changed the liver samples after Lentz died (he was the only one with access). As Nichols leaves the room, Kimble says to the crowd, "He falsified his research so that RDU-90 could be approved and Devlin MacGregor could give you Provasic." Kimble pursues Nichols onto the roof. A fight ensues, and they both end up falling through a skylight and landing on an elevator, which starts to descend. Nichols comes to consciousness before Kimble and stops the elevator on the laundry floor. Just as the elevator door is closing, Kimble shoves his hand through, opens it, and follows. Gerard and Deputy Cosmo (Joe Pantoliano) follow the elevator to the laundry room, looking for Kimble. Nichols hits Cosmo with a swinging girder, Cosmo goes down on the floor, and Nichols takes his gun. Now it's just Kimble, Gerard, and Nichols. Gerard calls out to Kimble that he knows Kimble is innocent and that it was Sykes who killed his wife. When Nichols steps out from cover and aims the gun at Gerard, Kimble hits Nichols with a pipe, and he's out for the count. Gerard puts down his gun, and he and Kimble look at each other. "They killed my wife," Kimble says, and Gerard replies, "I know it, Richard. I know it...but it's over now. Whew! You know, I'm glad. I need the rest." In the next scene, Cosmo is being wheeled out on a gurney, talking about taking a holiday. Gerard leads Kimble, who is handcuffed, to a squad car while the reporters fire off questions. When they're in the car, Gerard takes the handcuffs off Kimble and hands him an icepack. Kimble says, "I thought you didn't care." Gerard laughs, and says, "I don't. Don't tell anybody, ok?" The car drives off. The end.

Why was Lentz killed?

In the novelization, it was stated that Sykes killed Lentz. However, it's not explained in the movie whether Lentz was murdered or he died in a real accident. All we know from a scene where Cosmo is looking over Lentz's background, is that he was driving along Lake Shore Drive when a speeding car sent Lentz into Lake Michigan. The important thing is that, on the day Lentz died, all of the fake tissue samples were approved. The question now becomes: Did Lentz die accidentally and Nichols took the opportunity to approve the samples or did Nichols have Lentz killed so that he could approve the samples? What happened is open to interpretation.

Gerard was trying to demonstrate to Kimble that he was out of options. He could either trust him, give up peacefully, and take the chance that Gerard would help him---or he could keep running and trying to get away (thus proving he was guilty) and Gerard would be forced to shoot him.

Kimble was handcuffed for "show". Once in the police car, Gerard took off the handcuffs because he knew that Kimble did not commit the murder. However, the only way for Richard Kimble to be found not guilty and set free was in a court of law, not because a U.S Marshal said so. Based on that, Kimble was technically still an escaped convict.

There were many ambulances operating in that area, but what allowed Gerard to single out Kimble's ambulance was that it was not responding to radio calls, driving recklessly (like around downed grade crossing gates), and operating outside its designated service area.

After the manhunt for Kimble begins, there is noticeably no reference to Copeland (Eddie Bo Smith Jr.), whom the sheriff at the crash site had written off as dead. Perhaps the most likely explanation is that the authorities presumed that Kimble was the only inmate to survive. They only realized that Copeland also escaped when they failed to find his body in the wreckage. Copeland is not brought up until after the scene where Kimble accepts a ride from another woman. As he climbs in and she drives off with him, we cut to the U.S. Marshals' Chicago field office. Cosmo tells Gerard, "We've got him - shacked up with some babe over in Whiting", who "left work tonight and took him home". This is intended to be a red herring: the audience is led to believe that they have a tip on Kimble getting picked up and that the marshals are going to get him. The next morning, Gerard and Noah Newman lead a raid on the house, where Newman is grabbed by Copeland (hiding out at his girlfriend's house). Copeland takes Newman hostage with his own gun and threatens to kill him unless he is given a car. Gerard shoots and kills Copeland with two shots from point blank range from his Glock 17, because, as he later whispers into Newman's deafened ear, "I don't bargain." We later see him being reprimanded over the phone for his actions.

The film doesn't say what happens to Kimble after the film, but it would be safe to assume that he received a new trial. Based on the amount of evidence collected by both him and Gerard, a testimony from Gerard, and the capture of the true culprits, he could easily be found innocent. Whether or not he could resume his former life practicing vascular surgery is unknown.

If he refused to help, it would immediately make Kimble suspicious. Instead, he plays along while contacting Sykes and ordering the hit. Nichols figured that with Kimble dead, it wouldn't matter if he put the pieces together.

Those who have seen both the movie and the TV series say that the movie's plot -- Dr Richard Kimble is convicted of murdering his wife Helen (who was really killed by a one-armed man); Kimble escapes from custody and goes searching for him, all the while pursued by Lieutenant Gerard -- is consistent with the TV series. The main difference is that the TV series took four years to resolve the situation, whereas the movie took 130 minutes. During those four years, Kimble ran all over the country helping people, searching for the One-Armed Man, and trying to stay one step ahead of Inspector Gerard, who himself searched for and questioned approximately 80 one-armed men, with no success in finding the killer. Another notable difference is that the One-Armed Man in the TV show had no connection to Kimble, didn't kill his wife to frame him, and there was no Provasic or RDU-90 involved. Also, the murder went down differently in the TV series. Richard and Helen had argued over adoption (in stark contrast to the film, where they were clearly depicted as a loving, happy couple), and Richard had left the house. When he came back, he nearly ran over the One-Armed Man in front of his house, unlike in the movie where he enters and struggles with him. A few minor differences include the fact that Gerard's first name in the TV series was Philip (not Samuel), and he was a Lt. Detective (not a U.S. Marshal). In the TV series, the One-Armed Man's name was not Sykes, he was just a drifter, and he had no prosthetic. Also in the series, Richard was actually on the train being taken to prison to die in the electric chair when it derailed.

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