Starring: Clint Eastwood, John Malkovich, Rene Russo
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Running Time: 128 mins
In The Line Of Fire is an American film about a secret service agent guarding the President who is tormented by a calculating killer, who threatens to exploit the agent’s failure to save John F. Kennedy and assassinate the current President.
With a top-quality cast and an engaging story, In The Line Of Fire works well as a riveting crime-thriller, relying well on Clint Eastwood’s expert central performance and a premise that offers a lot more than your average bodyguard action movie. Saying that, the film still isn’t a non-stop thrill ride, and for all the intrigue and often impressive development it manages throughout, it doesn’t have much in the way of edge-of-your-seat excitement, proving a slightly underwhelming thriller in comparison to a number of counterparts.
But we start on the bright side, with the fact that In The Line Of Fire is more than enough to provide an engaging and often thoroughly entertaining watch from beginning to end. It’s not a world-class film, but it has a good blend of action, political intrigue, mystery, thrills and some strong dramatic depth throughout, meaning that there’s always something to focus on that prevents the film from ever feeling boring.
Now, I would have liked to see a more impressive and more exciting style in all of the areas just mentioned, but for a film that covers all bases, In The Line Of Fire does a great job, and is certainly an enjoyable and engaging watch for viewers of all tastes, pushing beyond the simplistic limitations set by other bodyguard films to pure action and/or romance.
What’s more is that the film not only impresses with a captivating story, but it lends good attention to its characters, with a lot of focus on the backstory and psyche of the lead in Clint Eastwood. Playing a veteran secret service agent with a career dating back to the 1960s, this film gives a really intriguing portrayal of the industry, both how the profession of bodyguarding changes over the years, as well as the long-term consequences and effects the job can have on an individual.
Eastwood’s performance brings that to life brilliantly, as we see a man haunted by his high-profile failure to protect a President back in 1963, and continually trying to find a balance within himself that will allow him to right the wrongs of the past, as well as just being able to move on ahead and away from that trauma. On top of that, his traditional style, attitudes and techniques cause friction with the security services of the modern day, playing into a number of intriguing relationships – particularly that with Rene Russo – and thereby adding more and more layers to what is a thoroughly engrossing main character.
All of that means that In The Line Of Fire is far more than the movie you may expect it to be at first. If you want good action, there’s some of that to please you, but there’s a lot more dramatic intrigue at play as well. If you want romance, then there’s a bit for you too, but there’s also a blend of both more serious and blockbuster elements to make the film a little more impressive and entertaining.
However, while the film does a good job in bringing all those different ideas and genres together under one roof, I can’t say that it achieves it in the most spectacular fashion. While In The Line Of Fire fortunately isn’t a messy film, it doesn’t give enough time or space for its core thriller story to really grab you by the scruff of the neck and get you on the edge of your seat.
It’s a fun and interesting watch throughout, but when it comes to the psychological battle of torment between Eastwood’s veteran bodyguard and John Malkovich’s calculating assassin, I really didn’t feel the tension and excitement in the way that better films of a similar ilk – The Fugitive being a great example – achieved in the same way. As a result, the film’s most action-packed and blockbuster-esque sequences feel distinctly underwhelming, with a less-than-spectacular finale that left me feeling a little unsatisfied and frankly underentertained (if that’s a word).
Overall, then, I was engaged and intrigued by In The Line Of Fire throughout, largely thanks to a collection of strong performances and a dynamic, diverse story that keeps you captivated with a number of subplots right the way through. It’s a fun action movie as well as a riveting drama, however it’s far from the most exhilarating thriller you’ll ever see, missing the mark when it comes to high excitement and thrills – particularly in its rather underwhelming final act – and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3.