Monday, December 31, 2012
IN THE LINE OF FIRE
(July 1993, U.S.)
Yesterday while I was watching Wolfgang Peterson's IN THE LINE OF FIRE for this blog, I found myself grossly distracted by my own detailed memories. Sure, this is a great edge-of-your-seat thriller that's impossible not to enjoy, but the whole time I was enjoying all this enjoyment, I found my memories constantly reaching back to the Summer of 1993. There are some films that will do this to you; they take you back to a time of your life when the film was first released. In my case, the Summer of 1993 brings back memories that are two sided. On the one hand, I was involved in a Hamptons share house and having the time of my life. On the other hand, it was the beginning of the end of a relationship (and friendship) that, at the time, meant a lot to me. You see, personal memories may not have much to do with the content of a film itself, but rather they take you back to a time you may not have liked and back to the person you may have been once, and that's not always pleasant.
But that aside, let's focus now on one of Clint Eastwoods's best crime thrillers since MAGNUM FORCE (1973), in my opinion. Eastwood plays U.S. Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan, still haunted by his failure to save John F. Kennedy back on that fateful day in November 1963 now seeking personal redemption who's also heading the investigation to locate Mitch Leary (played by John Malkovich), known as "Booth" in the film, a psychotic ex-CIA assassin determined to kill the President of the United States. He's determined to the extreme where he's set up a phony computer software business whose donations to the president's re-election campaign will get him a front row dinner seat right in front of the man himself. This is a man who really wants his prey and he's ready to die for it. He's also a man who know how to psychologically push the right buttons in Frank, as they develop a strange cat-and-mouse relationship over the telephone. This is high stakes game to Mitch and he's more than happy to have Frank along for the ride to make things interesting. He even saves Frank's life along the way during a rooftop chase in order to keep the game in play.
One of more interesting elements about a film where you already know who the bad guy is, is that you constantly find yourself reacting to the fact that the good guys in the film can't seem to find him. Throughout the film there are snapshots of John Malkovich's ugly mug, and even though some of them are disguised, you can't believe that these FBI guys (other than Eastwood) just can't see through them and catch their bad guy! You actually find yourself thinking things like, "Geez, he's right in front of your face!" But then again, I suppose if it were that easy, we wouldn't have a two hour plus film, right?
As far as performances go, Clint Eastwood and Rene Russo have excellent chemistry together. These are two mature grown up actors who must struggle between being professional colleagues by day and wanting very much to jump into bed with each other. And on the "cougar" side of all things women, I must confess that Rene Russo is quite the babe! John Malkovich, I must also confess, is an actor that has made me rather nervous ever since I first saw him playing Happy opposite Dustin Hoffman in a 1985 CBS teleplay production of DEATH OF A SALESMAN. Two years later, I saw him again in Steven Spielberg's EMPRE OF THE SUN (1987) and his character was just as unsettling. I don't think that unsettling feeling for a particular actor has ever gone away, so his performance as would-be psychotic assassin seems just perfect.
When I look back on Eastwood's very extensive film career, I have to say that the films I enjoy most are the ones where he was directed by another filmmaker. Wolfgang Peterson seems to have a good grasp on the politically-based thriller. He'd do it again four years later with Harrison Ford in AIR FORCE ONE (1997). Though, for my money, I'll still always appreciate him most with his German submarine thriller DAS BOOT (1981).
Favorite line or dialogue:
Frank Horrigan: "I saw the photos."
Mitch Leary: "No, you saw what he wanted you to see, Frank."
Frank: "I saw a picture of, uh, your friend lying on the floor with his throat cut."
Mitch: "What you didn't see, Frank, what you couldn't possibly know, is: they sent my best friend - my comrade in arms - to my home to kill me!"
Frank: "Your voice is shaking."
Mitch: "I never lied to you, Frank, and I never will!"
You know, criminal or not, the character of Mitch Leary seems to have a more solid grasp on human respect than most real life people do.