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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 3/13/01



In the Line of Fire

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits


In the Line of Fire: Special Edition

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs


In the Line of Fire
Special Edition - 1993 (2001) - Columbia TriStar

Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/A-/A-

Specs and Features:

128 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:26:03, in chapter 22), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary track (with director Wolfgang Petersen, moderated by special edition DVD producer J.M. Kenny), 5 deleted scenes, The Ultimate Sacrifice: In the Line of Fire featurette, Behind The Scenes with The Secret Service featurette, How'd They Do That? featurette, Catching the Counterfeiters featurette, production notes, talent files, teaser trailer, theatrical trailers (for Air Force One and Das Boot), TV spots, animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects and music, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), French, Spanish & Portuguese (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Closed Captioned



In the Line of Fire (Eastwood Collection)

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs


In the Line of Fire
Clint Eastwood Collection - 1993 (2000) - Warner (Columbia TriStar)

Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/A-/F

Specs and Features:

128 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Snapper case packaging, film-themed menu screens, scene access (61 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: Spanish and Korean, Closed Captioned



In the Line of Fire

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs


In the Line of Fire
1993 (1997) - Columbia TriStar

Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/A-/F

Specs and Features:

128 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, film-themed menu screens, scene access (61 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: Spanish and Korean, Closed Captioned


Agent Frank Horrigan: "What do you see at night when the demons come?"

Mitch Leary: "I see you, Frank, standing over the grave of another dead president."

When done intelligently, the suspense/thriller/action genre can be quite fun to watch. It's exciting to witness heroic and villainous characters duke it out to the bitter end, and the films usually contain interesting twists and turns that rattle the mind. But this genre has been done to death, and as more of these types of films get released, they become more and more similar. Usually the hero is flawed somehow, and he or she must overcome some personal obstacle to save the day. And we can pretty much rest assured that the Hollywood dogma of giving closure to the audience is gonna dictate that the bad guy die some horrible death at the end. Unfortunately, In the Line of Fire falls squarely into these traps. Technically and structurally, Fire doesn't show us anything we haven't seen before in hundreds of other suspense/thrillers. Still, this film was blessed with several incredibly redeeming factors that make it more than worthwhile to watch.

United States Secret Service Agent Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood) is something of a living footnote - he's the only active Secret Service agent that's ever lost a president under his watch. Frank, it seems, was assigned to protect Kennedy in Dallas on that fateful November day in 1963, and when the shots rang out, Frank physically and mentally froze up, and could only watch as Kennedy was brutally murdered. Having lived with a sea of regret and self-deprecation for 30 years, Frank might have the opportunity to redeem himself when an idealistic and very determined assassin, Mitch Leary (John Malkovich), makes a play to kill the current president. Leary knows of Frank's past, and when he learns that the legendary agent is investigating the case, Leary starts to contact Frank. Frank and the would-be assassin begin to chip away at each other's nerves and, as the story unfolds, the game of cat and mouse becomes ever more intense.

As if Frank didn't have enough on his hands trying to thwart this very formidable bad guy, he has to deal with the fact that the president is in the midst of a re-election campaign. Not only will the president be more visible to the public (read: an easier target), but he must not be made to seem a coward. Frank's intensity to protect the president is not taken well by many of his co-workers and the White House Chief of Staff (played by real-life Senator Fred Thompson) who are more concerned with the president's image than with his safety. Will Frank be able to outsmart Leary and catch him in time to save the president, in effect putting his demons to rest? Or will Frank be cursed to re-live November 22, 1963 every day for the rest of his life?

Like I said before, In the Line of Fire isn't anything new. The structure of this film is your typical suspense/thriller, so don't go in expecting the genre to be redefined. Another problem is that the love interest that is developed between Horrigan and fellow Secret Service agent Lilly Raines (Rene Russo) is very tacked-on. Their relationship is important to the plot, but it would have been more interesting to have the characters interact as comrades who share a close bond in their ideals, rather than simply lovers who share a common goal and romantic tension.

That being said, several things rescue In the Line of Fire from mediocrity. This was the first film made with the full cooperation of the United States Secret Service, and the movie depicts the agency in an honest and accurate fashion. The audience gets a good feeling for what this agency does, and what happens behind the scenes during presidential travel. I found this interesting because U.S.S.S. is an intentionally "invisible" agency that you never hear much about. After viewing some of the supplemental featurettes found on the special edition DVD, you get a good sense of how accurately the filmmakers attempted to portray the Service.

If a behind-the-scenes look at the Secret Service doesn't entice you, the performances by Clint Eastwood and John Malkovich should get you interested. Eastwood portrays a level of vulnerability that is usually absent in the tough-guy roles he's known for. He also injects the character with a playful sense of humor that helps endear Frank Horrigan to the audience. And Malkovich brings his unique brand of creepy-ness and intensity to the role of assassin Mitch Leary, which earned him an Academy Award nomination.

There are now three DVD versions of In the Line of Fire (well... technically two). The original release was among Columbia's very first batch of DVD titles in the spring of 1997 (and was the first DVD I ever purchased almost four years ago). It contained absolutely zero features. This exact same disc was repackaged and re-released in the Clint Eastwood Collection box set that came out from Warner last year. Happily though, Columbia has just released a brand new feature-packed special edition to replace the original, and fans of the film will definitely want to make the upgrade. Before we go any further, I have to take issue with the cover art of the new release. What is up with Rene Russo? By her looks on this cover, it almost seems like she's part of some White House sex scandal that Horrigan's running around trying to diffuse. It's a baaaaad picture!

The video quality of the new special edition and the original standard edition are almost identical, save for slightly better compression on the new disc. I noticed a bit less pixel break up on the new special edition disc, due to the use of RSDL dual-layer technology. The anamorphic widescreen picture quality sometimes appears vivid with detailed images, and other times can seem hazy and a bit on the noisy side. Colors have a warm push to them, and flesh tones appear too orange a good deal of the time. In all fairness, this was an excellent transfer for 1997. But in 2001, it's somewhat less than reference quality.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound on the new edition is very good, with Ennio Morricone's score filling the sound space and several directional effects spicing up the rear channels. Dialog can sound a little forward and grainy at times, but overall this is a nicely produced track. Note that it is identical to the 5.1 track on the original disc.

The extra features on the new special edition disc start out with a great audio commentary track with director Wolfgang Petersen, moderated by DVD producer J.M. Kenny. Petersen discusses a wide range of topics throughout the course of the track, and really leaves no stone unturned. Next are two featurettes that complement each other very well. The first is a 22-minute piece (produced by Kenny) called The Ultimate Sacrifice: In the Line of Fire. The other is a 19-minute piece (produced by Showtime) called Behind the Scenes with the Secret Service. Both featurettes discuss what exactly the Secret Service is and detail some of the history behind the organization. The accuracy of the film is discussed at some length, and there are interviews with real U.S.S.S. agents, Bob Snow (the retired agent who consulted on the film) and the stars of the movie. The neatest part of these featurettes is that they show actual, never-before-seen footage of the many exercises agents-in-training must face before they can wear dark suits and shades, and call the President cool code names like "Traveler." There's also a short, 5-minute featurette called How'd They Do That?, which breaks down a few special effects shots. And there's a 5-minute discussion of counterfeit money, called Catching the Counterfeiters. This piece actually turns out to be a short laboratory lesson from the Secret Service about how to identify counterfeit currency. In addition to these, five deleted scenes make an appearance on the new DVD, and are a mixed bag in terms of quality. However, two of them ("Hat Joke" and "Piano Bar #2") are very funny, and are well worth a look. Rounding out the supplements are theatrical trailers, TV spots, production notes and talent files. All in all, this is a great package of features that will emphasize how accurate the film is and, thus, make it that much more enjoyable.

In the Line of Fire might not be ground-breaking cinema, but the performances by Clint Eastwood and John Malkovich, coupled with the filmmakers' attention to detail and accuracy, make this film very enjoyable. The audio and video qualities of the new special edition are almost identical to the original, but the quality and quantity of its extras should make repurchase an easy choice for fans of the film.

Greg Suarez
gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com


In the Line of Fire: Special Edition


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