Monday, February 11, 2013
MOVIE OF THE WEEK: In The Line Of Fire
Of the many action thrillers of the 90s, "In The Line Of Fire" easily holds its own among its more popular counterparts in the genre. In this Clint Eastwood starrer, a Secret Service agent (played by Eastwood) is on a determined manhunt to stop a terrorist threat against the President. As the only surviving active agent who was present at the assassination of JFK, he is fueled by this memory of perceived failure. This guilt forms the basis for an interesting character study for the lead role and elevates the film above its "popcorn movie" tendencies.
The term "popcorn movie" seems especially relevant here, as the film is molded from the typical formula that is aimed to entertain mass audiences. As a result, it feels a bit dated even though it's a fairly modern film. It is both restrained and aided by its "90s movie" style. It's a bit too "on-the-nose", but it's also very admirable for the sharp focus of the plot. This focus provides an exciting experience for the viewer, making it easy to get invested in the film. The manufactured tension and thrills are obvious, but there's a solid screenplay at its core.
Much of this film's appeal comes from the strong performances by Eastwood and John Malkovich. As the hero of the story, Eastwood is more warm and affable here than in any of his other roles that I can immediately recall. The romance and buddy cop subplots are both believable as he eases off on the gruff, tough guy persona we've come to expect. Playing opposite Eastwood, Malkovich is also on his A-game, delivering a suitably deranged and impassioned villain performance. On top of that, his motives actually make sense, which is a welcome attribute in this character type. These are 2 great individual performances, but they are even better when they share the screen. Their showdowns were quite electric and gave you some philosophical food for thought.
Overall, I can see why the film may not age well but given its 90s context, the strength of the screenplay, direction and acting are undeniable. You probably won't remember it for years to come, but it's a fun diversion that's very satisfying in the moment.