One of the more intense thrillers of the '90's and one of director Wolfgang Petersen's better efforts, "In the Line of Fire" stars Clint Eastwood as Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan, who was considered one of the finest agents working with JFK. Years later, Horrigan still remains haunted by his inability to protect the President during that tragic day.
Years later, a new threat becomes apparent when a man named Mitch Leary (John Malkovich, in an Oscar-nominated performance) begins to make known his intentions of stalking the President, even going as far to call Frank to let him in on his plans, given his connection to the JFK assassination. As Frank becomes increasingly concerned, he requests that he be put on the Presidential detail - however, given that it's an election year, Frank runs into roadblocks, such as the President's chief of staff (Fred Dalton Thompson).
Despite the opposition, Frank becomes more and more determined and persists in trying to convince his superiors that Leary - who grows increasingly persistent and unhinged - is a serious threat. The two characters have a cat-and-mouse game that stands as one of the best in recent memory, as both characters are smart, resourceful and unable to see any way they could possibly lose.
The performances are outstanding, although this is clearly a two-man show between Malkovich and Eastwood. Eastwood is outstanding as the worn, guilt-ridden agent who may be getting up there in years, but remains as resourceful and intelligent as ever. Malkovich offers one of his best performances as the film's cold, deranged and intimidating villain. In terms of supporting performances, Rene Russo and John Mahoney offer very good efforts. Technically, the film also earns high marks, with outstanding production design, cinematography and editing.
Overall, fifteen years later "In the Line of Fire" still remains an effective, tense thriller with excellent performances from the two leads.
VIDEO: Sony presents "In the Line of Fire" in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC) The presentation isn't going to be considered demo quality, but it did exceed expectations somewhat. Sharpness and detail are a little off at times, as some scenes appear noticably softer. Small object detail was also mildly uneven. Still, much of the film at least looked crisper and smoother than the prior DVD editions.
Some minor edge enhancement entered into the picture, but at least the print did appear clean, with no specks, marks or other concerns spotted during the proceedings. Some moderate amounts of grain were seen at times, but gave the presentation a more "film-like" appearance. Colors were intentionally low-key, but did look spot-on here, with no concerns. Overall, the presentation isn't going to dazzle, but it is still an improvement over the DVD editions. Subtitles are offered in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, Bahasa and Korean.
SOUND: Sony presents "In the Line of Fire" in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Although it doesn't quite stand up to many newer releases, the sound design offers some surprisingly intense moments. Although many scenes are simply dialogue-driven, the action scenes or some of the other crowd sequences open up the audio well. Surrounds are used fairly often, although maybe not quite agressively as some more recent pictures - they are quite effective when used, though. The score sounds deep and powerful, and comes through with authority. Dialogue is clean and easily heard.
EXTRAS: The extras are carried over from the prior DVD Special Edition.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Wolfgang Petersen and DVD producer J.M. Kenny, who also joined Petersen for the commentary track on the "Perfect Storm" DVD. If you've listened to Petersen's previous tracks, you'll know that he's a wonderfully engaging and intelligent speaker who not only is warm and energetic in his comments, but also provides a great deal of information in an organized fashion. Although Kenny is supposed to be there to provide him questions and simply to keep this from being a "one man" commentary track, Petersen is able to go forward almost completely on his own, offering a great deal of information about the production and what it was like to work with Eastwood. Kenny does provide some questions though, and as with the "Perfect Storm" track, he comes prepared with some interesting questions. Also very interesting is the details about the accuracy that had to be achieved during many of the film's sequences, and the help that the production got from the secret service. Petersen really ranks among the best (if not the best) "commentary" contributors in terms of directors. He just has such a wealth of information to share on his tracks and seems so happy to share his feelings about the films he discusses. There's hardly any pauses here as the director is able to keep talking almost completely throughout.
In The Line Of Fire: A 22 minute documentary, this takes a very in-depth look at the making of the movie, with a mixture of film clips, behind-the-scenes footage and new & old interviews with those who were involved with the movie. The majority of the documentary takes a look at the accuracy that was needed as well as the help that the secret service advisor Bob Snow, who assisted the film, gave. Field agents also speak here, as well as the producer and writers. Definitely informative and worth a look.
Catching The Counterfiters: This is a 5 1/2 minute look at the secret service's skills in combating counterfitting. It's really remarkable to watch how this is done and hear about how new technology has made it easier to counterfit - as well as how money was re-designed to catch counterfit bills.
Deleted Scenes: 5 somewhat short deleted scenes are presented, all in somewhat rough non-anamorphic versions. These scenes are interesting to watch, but wouldn't have worked in the final film.
Behind The Scenes With The Secret Service: This is a slightly less than 20 minute featurette that was originally aired on Showtime. "Promotional", but still moderately entertaining, there's more than a bit on the story of the film that we've just seen in terms of interviews and clips, but there's also some additional behind-the-scenes information on the service's role in the production.
How'd They Do That?: A short featurette with an unidentified effects worker, who narrates how they did some of the special effects in the film, such as taking "Bill Clinton" signs out of a scene at a rally and the outside shot of Air Force One, among other bits.
Final Thoughts: "In the Line of Fire" still stands as a tense, well-acted cat-and-mouse thriller. The Blu-Ray edition offers mildly improved audio/video quality, but carries over the same extras as the ones that appeared on the previous DVD edition. Recommended for fans.
The Film B+