In the Line of Fire Reviews
Saw this on 4/6/15
This is a highly implausible and improbable thriller that wants people to believe that one man, just one man can alone try and nearly achieve a successful assassination attempt on the president of USA without any help from anyone else. However, the entire procedure is elevated by engaging performances from Eastwood and Malkovich and also by a well handled direction from Petersen. The visual effects are mostly bad and unrealistic and the film released just 2 years after the iconic hit JFK(1991) itself has a conspiracy around it, perhaps to save someone's face. The film also draws a lot from a similar film called The Bodyguard(1992).
Capitalising on the concept of Presidential assassinations, In the Line of Fire has some very edgy subject matter to it. And with Wolfgang Petersen as director, it is no surprise that In the Line of Fire succeeds. He continues to impress me, and In the Line of Fire is an example of one of his films which is both large in ambition and yet heavily character focused. The film itself is a very slow paced one with an atmosphere which burns at a gradual rate, but it proves to be effective as there ends up being some surprisingly intense moments in the film. It isn't always interesting, and the romantic subplot relating to protagonist Agent Frank Horrigan is not that interesting and just detracts from the main story, so the focus of the film is a mild issue. In the Line of Fire wants to be a large-scale political thriller and a character focused story at the same time, but it ends up inconsistent with the focus of the story always shifting as it moves along through the tale. It is good as a whole, largely because of the intense game of cat and mouse played between protagonist and antagonist, but the slow pace of the film is largely what limits its impact. For me, political thrillers are not that intriguing as a genre and so the abundance of talking in In the Line of Fire takes its toll on me. But as a whole there are a lot of really powerful and tense moments involving the hunt for Mitch Leary. It may be a little tame by today's standards, but In the Line of Fire remains a tense and intelligent thriller with a lot of scenes to transcend the surplus of dialogue.
Some shots are reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece Vertigo, particularly the scene in which Frank Horrigan pursues Mitch Leary across the rooftops. The scene is a really intense and realistic one which let's the atmosphere develop organically without the addition of dramatisation. It is one of the most brilliantly written moments in the film and it is crafted with Wolfgang Petersen's precise direction. So In the Line of Fire works as an effective thriller which also evokes memories to earlier ones, even such classics as The Manchurian Candidate. It doesn't live up to them, but it stands up as a solid thriller of its own right.
In the Line of Fire certainly has suffered from the battle of age because the standard for films today are to be a lot faster in pacing, and viewers are likely to have become desensitised by political assassinations as it has happened so many times that we are always on guard for the next one. The impact of the film is not likely to have the same effect anymore, but it is a film that needs to be looked at for the qualities of being a film from its age. The highlights are the intense atmosphere which is built on the slow burning strength of the screenplay as it is given a driving force by Wolfgang Petersen's intense directorial effort and the complicated nature of the characters.
The narrative structure in the film is intriguing because the story plays out by showing both sides of the tale in the way that the central protagonist and antagonist tie into the events. It shows a nearly even version of the tale where both their perspectives are told and it gives the audience a view into what characterises the hero and villain of the story. It is cleverly executed and breaks the standard convention of cat and mouse games in thriller films.
It is a stylish film because Wolfgang Petersen is able to use the $40 million budget of the film to build it into a legitimate piece. The scenery in the film is easily convincing and the production design is great while everything is captured with grand cinematography which emphasises the scale of the dynamics as well as touching upon some of the smaller visual elements. In the Line of fire is memorable for cleverly making use of video editing techniques which impose footage of a younger Clint Eastwood into actual historical footage as a manner of emphasising the presence of Agent Frank Horrigan in the John F. Kennedy assassination. It is uncannily realistic and incredibly well crafted. And considering that it was done a year prior to it occurring again in the 1994 multiple Academy Award winning film Forrest Gump, it shows a strong step up in cinematic technology.
And to ensure that In the Line of fire succeeds on a human level, the cast of the film contribute their part excellently .
Clint Eastwood's leading performance is great. He delivers a sense at a lot of inner torment to the part as a means of keeping his emotional expression subtle and yet tense. He is an easy fit for the part because considering his legacy as a badass, it is easy to believe that his character's past has been involved in violent and gritty history. He brings a sophisticated edge to the role as part of his exterior facade while also maintaining a sense of having a life of regret and torment as a driving force for his intense performance. He is as gritty as ever in In the Line of Fire, although his performance is a lot more about his words than his weaponry. Luckily, his dedication to character is just brilliant and the way that he delivers his lines is so incredibly raw that it is very admirable. Clint Eastwood hits his endeavour in the scenes where he has to confront John Malkovich's character Mitch Leary. Their chemistry is intense, partly because of how Clint Eastwood reacts to the situations with raw emotion physically and also because his line delivery is seriously intense. Clint Eastwood's leading performance in In the Line of Fire is a really solid leading effort which emphasises less what he can do with a weapon and more about what he can do with a character.
John Malkovich is the screen stealer though. As the antagonist of the story, John Malkovich has a lot to do with how the atmosphere is established. Without surprise, he is able to do that with a powerful performance. His role is sophisticated and his line delivery is consistent with a single dark and twisted tone of voice which shields a lot of inner torment, and so he is able to cleverly play himself off as a villainous character in a subtle fashion. John Malkovich is very dark in In the Line of Fire because he makes himself seem like a serious threat without hitting viewers over the head with the notion. It's partially predicated on some of the scenes where he gets involved in some violent situations, but it's mostly strengthened by the tone of voice he maintains during the scenes where all he has to do is talk his way through to Clint Eastwood's conscience. He is a cleverly manipulative villain and his intense charisma is terrific, so he really does stand out as the most powerful actor of the film.
So In the Line of Fire is a very slow film which gets distracted quite a bit, but it has a really powerful atmosphere, stylish direction from Wolfgang Peterson and excellent performances from Clint Eastwood and John Malkovich.
(Full review coming soon)