The first time I saw In The Line Of Fire, I hadn’t seen the Dirty Harry movies. But even without being able to appreciate the evolution of Eastwood the actor from the classics of the 70s through to the world-weary character of Frank Horrigan that we meet here, I still thought that In The Line Of Fire was one of the 90s very best thrillers. Contextualised against Dirty Harry, it’s a terrific and evolved role for Eastwood to play, and one that gives him arguably his best acting performance of the decade (Unforgiven included).
Eastwood plays Frank Horrigan, a secret service agent who is still haunted by the assassination of Kennedy, and the fact that it happened on his watch. He lives a quiet life, until 30 years on, when he finds himself in the midst of another presidential assassination attempt. This time, the would-be assassin is Mitch Leary, a man who is fascinated by Horrigan’s past, and who engages him in a compelling, tense game of cat and mouse. Leary, played with absolute menace by John Malkovich, is as rounded a character as Horrigan, and when the two of them are going head to head, the film ignites. The absolute highlights of In The Line Of Fire are where the pair taunt each other, primarily over the phone, and it’s this core battle between the pair that lift it above pretty much every other thriller of the decade.
When the two aren’t sparring, the film slides into its weaker moments, but even then it never drops below interesting. The romance with Rene Russo’s character never really gels (although does throw up some good dialogue), and Dylan McDermott’s sidekick lacks much in the way of gravitas. The screenplay, thus, wisely keeps the focus on Horrigan and Leary for the majority of the film.
Behind the camera, this is arguably the last really good film that Wolfgang Peterson directed (although there’s the guts of an argument for Outbreak), and it’s very much the man who made Das Boot rather than Troy and The Perfect Storm who’s in charge here. He keeps things deliciously simple when the two lead characters are speaking to one another, and wisely allows two excellent actors to go about their business.
The Blu-ray presentation is decent, even though In The Line Of Fire wasn’t really crying out for a high definition transfer. What we get is an image that does show its age a little, and has little in the way of sparkle. But it’s a competent job, even if there’s headroom for further improvement. The audio fares better, with the TrueHD 5.1 track handling the subtleties particularly well.
Extras-wise, there’s nothing here that you won’t find on the special edition DVD release of old. Wolfgang Peterson’s commentary track is underwhelming, sadly, while a pair of documentaries focus on the secret service, without ever really getting particularly meaty. There are also some brief and forgettable featurettes, and some tired deleted scenes that the final cut isn’t missing.
It’s hard to build a convincing case to shell out for a high definition version of In The Line Of Fire, and the work that’s been done on the image isn’t enough to carry it over the line. The film remains very good, though, with only some side elements looking dated. The interplay with Eastwood and Malkovich is a fresh as it was in 1993, but you’re not losing much by enjoying that on the far cheaper DVD version.The Film The Disc