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In the Line of Fire Print E-mail
Monday, 25 August 2008
Clint Eastwood has given the audiences some powerful performances over the years.  Undoubtedly, you more often than not envision Eastwood in his "Unforgiven" role, not mention "Dirty Harry."  And with his softer side, present in "The Bridges Of Madison County" his role as Frank Horrigan in "In the Line of Fire" easily gets overshadowed.  This however, would be a great mistake.  Eastwood is at the top of his game in this film as a Secret Service Agent that has been involved in a game to assassinate the President of the United States.

Equally impressive in the film is the acting talent of John Malkovich, who plays Mitch Leary, an assassin.  Malkovich is so strong and convincing in his role that he actually strikes fear into the audience.  His character is greatly complex, and Malkovich is differently up for the challenge.  He succeeds with flying colors.  You very well may never want to see the villain of the story evolve more than you do with Leary.

30 years ago, Frank Horrigan stood by president John F. Kennedy on the fatal day in which he was shot and killed.  Scandal ensued in regards to Horrigan's drinking prior to being on the job.  His career is nearly destroyed and his wife left him.  Fast-forward 30 years; Frank is now an undercover secret service agent, busting the likes of counterfeiters.  Along with his partner, Al D'Andrea (Dylan McDermott) Frank is called to investigate a rather frightening obsession with presidential assassinations located in an apartment.  The assassin, longing for a worthy opponent, involves Frank in the hunt to locate him. After 30 years, Frank is able to persuade the head of the Secret Service to re-assign him to the president's detail.  Distracted by Mitch Leary's psychological insight into his life, Frank is unable to stay focused on the dangers at hand.  Several false cries of attack by Frank, lead him to being removed from the president's detail.  Frank however, does not give up.  He continues his pursuit in trying to locate Leary.

The characters are very well created in this film.  Everyone plays their role to its fullest.  Even Rene Russo is engaging as Secret Service Agent Lilly Raines.  Although, I must say that the romantic aspect between Clint Eastwood and Rene Russo was a little hard to fathom.  Their age difference alone was enough to make it unbelievable.

The cinematography of the film is not spectacular.  It is fairly bland, with many wide shot camera pans.  However, the writing of the film and the actors more than make up for cinematographic shortcomings.  This film is a psychological thriller that will have you on the edge of your seats all the way through.  While it may be fairly predictable in its outcome, the journey is more than satisfying.

In terms of video quality, the Blu-ray transfer does a remarkable job of staying true to the original.  The original print is where the problem lies.  No amount of digital tinkering could make this film consistent in its viewing presentation.  The colors are bland, which is acceptable for the time period piece.  However, the colors fluctuate throughout.  This is primarily due the lack of consistency in the contrast of the film.  Most annoying are the blurry backgrounds of wide shots.  The clarity of details in the close up shots is impressive for a film from 1993.  The inconsistency between the two types of shots is tough to sit through.  The Blu-ray transfer is much improved over the standard DVD release of the past.  It improves the soft image look that plagued the DVD.  The blacks and shadow delineation are stable, but with the lack of solid colors, the image does not pop as much as other films of the same time period.  Most impressive however, is the noticeable lack of artifacting and grain.  The image is clean for the large part.  There are few scenes that contain vertical banding in the blue daytime sky.

The audio quality is a lot more stable than the video presentation.  The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track yields a nice, balanced presentation.  The dialogue is clear and audible throughout the film. The music and effects are well balanced among the important dialogue sequences.  The surrounds are used quite well.  Discrete effects are present throughout the film.  However, ambience in the surrounds suffers a bit.  The biggest problem with the soundtrack has more to do with the original mix than with the transfer.  The sound effects border on being too bright and tinny.  Much of the gunfire is weak in comparison with other films produced around the same time.  This ties into the other issue, which is the lack of a solid LFE channel.

For the supplemental features, Sony has provided us with all the features present in the 2001 standard DVD release.  Unfortunately, the features have been left in the standard definition format.  Wolfgang Peterson delivers a somewhat bland audio commentary.  He tells anecdotes of the filmmaking process, but lacks any real enthusiasm.  "The Ultimate Sacrifice" delves into the world of the Secret Service.  "Behind the Scenes with the Secret Service" is much the same as "The Ultimate Sacrifice."  "Catching Counterfeiters" looks at the trade of being a counterfeiter.  It is rather uninteresting.  "How'd They Do That" is a dated featurette that looks at how the special effects were achieved.  And finally there is a collection of deleted scenes that easily demonstrate why they were removed from the final cut of the film.

"In the Line of Fire" is a terrific film that is a must own for that reason.  The Blu-ray release will offer you an upgrade over your standard DVD, remedying the video's fuzzy and soft image.  Its overall presentation is not as sharp as many of Sony's back catalog titles, but it is better than many others.  It is not demo material by any means, but enjoy it for what its worth.  Clint Eastwood and John Malkovich put on quite a good show.  It is hard to find films today with such great acting and storylines.

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