In the Line of Fire (1993) Directed by Wolfgang Petersen

I'm rarely in the mood for an edge-of-the-seat thriller, but to clear my head recently it has been a good recipe to watch some middle-of-the-road Clint (and a lot of Sopranos). The concept of escaping from your own mind by way of entertainment has hit me on a new level. Two things: life can really throw things at you from such surprising angles that all you can do is take moments to not think about it. And it is really possible and very ok to forget about your situation for a while and watch how Clint Eastwood tackles John Malkovich. It is also ok to drink sparkling wine down very quickly with a straw on your birthday and then enjoy Shine 2009 live.

We review a lot of Eastwood films on this little blog. Like out of proportion with some other directors appreciated by one of us. But I'll let that one slip for now, as Eastwood has provided my husband a great way of escapism for decades and decades. In The Line of Fire is mostly just another Eastwood picture. He's already dealing with aging here, although not in the same way he has to in 2013. The clich├ęs are present from the womanizing to the self-deprecating references to his cinematic position as the lonely rider. It's not even an impossibly scary or infuriatingly sexist movie. It's kind of safe, but nicely proportionate. The political scene it describes gives it enough dryness to counter the scariness of Malkovich's agent-gone-bad.

We actually are in the middle of Holy Motors right now and one of these days we may be writing a review. But it's not the kind of film I want to watch when in need of a relaxing evening. It's arty, airy, scary, tense – I have no idea what's going on and what the point it just waits for an evening when we need to be puzzled in French. To return to In The Line of Fire; I have no idea how to measure great acting or what it might be made of, but I believe that in order to act believably an actor has to use his/her own experiences and feelings as much as possible. He has to believe he is the character just like I used to believe in my character when I was 10-years-old playing a single welfare mom with my friend. I guess that's why Clint always seems like the same character in his films. And that might be great acting.

It's Republican Clint mourning for the death of Camelot. It's the Jazz Daddio, listening to Kind Of Blue, way too cool and liberal for you. Yes, we're back in that confused world of Clint Eastwood. Could it just be the empty chair had frazzled his allegiances all along? Who knows. In The Line Of Fire continues from where Unforgiven left off. It's Clint Eastwood reconciling himself with getting old (a theme Eastwood has revisited as an actor ever since). Because he's been the Man With No Name & Dirty Harry, we actually care what happens to him. It's the same Clint as those movies because there is only one Clint, and he's the same in every movie, only now he's getting old and personal but still the same.

In The Line Of Fire is standard fare elevated by conversation. Most of the action per se happens on the telephone. Intense verbal duels between getting-on-in-years FBI agent Horrigan (Eastwood) and loon- of-the-week out to kill the President, Leary (played in well over the top fashion by John Malkovich). In the verbal spars it all comes down to if you're man enough to take a bullet for the President. Well are you Punk? In between all this macho posturing, Eastwood plays some cool piano and oozes sexist filth towards co-star Rene Russo. Of course Russo falls for the wily old Clint despite his offensiveness. Eastwood was 63 whilst making In The Line Of Fire, yet somehow still manages to give off some nonchalant charm.

Russo & Eastwood, In The Line Of Fire

Director Petersen manages to inject some humor and a few healthy nods to Hitchcock, which keeps it a bit interesting. At the heart of it, In The Line Of Fire continues an established order where Eastwood can carry a film by purely being good in it. He's top value here, it's a great performance from someone that we don't really expect to be a great actor (whisper it – he is). It could be just that we're (I'm) in love with that persona and will never get bored of it. Or, and I think this is it, it's old-school iconic acting, something we won't see again once Eastwood's gone.


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