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After his Oscar for Best Director, Clint Eastwood had little to prove to anyone, so when he took the lead in Columbia's IN THE LINE OF FIRE ($30), I wasn't expecting too much. Eastwood has been producing, directing and starring in his most recent films; so as a hired gun in IN THE LINE OF FIRE, I didn't foresee this as one of the best films of his career.

Eastwood appears as secret service agent Frank Horrigan. Horrigan is something of a living legend; he is the last active agent to have ever lost a President. Horrigan is a very troubled man; he was Kennedy's favorite agent, and he was with Kennedy on that fateful November day in Dallas. Horrigan never forgave himself for Kennedy's death, and his agonizing guilt virtually destroyed his personal life, leaving him bitter and burnt out. The plot of IN THE LINE OF FIRE centers on a presidential assassin who has decided to play a game of cat and mouse with the secret service, but most especially with agent Frank Horrigan.

Clint Eastwood turns in an especially fine performance as Frank Horrigan. Eastwood brings to life this man grieving over his past mistakes, who hopes to find redemption by saving the life of the current president. I am really surprised that this great performance didn't garner Eastwood an Oscar nomination, perhaps some petty jealousy over his previous win for Best Director. Even more surprising is the lack of Best Picture nomination; perhaps the film was snubbed for the same reasons.

As for Eastwood's nemesis in the film, John Malkovich is super. As far as I am concerned, Malkovich has been turning in the same performance in every movie that he has appeared. I guess with the law of averages, there eventually would have to be a role perfectly suited to that performance. Malkovich’s performance did earn him a nomination for supporting actor. Rene Russo is Eastwood's love interest. Russo portrays a much younger agent, tough, eager and beautiful­ a perfect counterpoint to Eastwood's old dinosaur. Filling out the cast is Dylan McDermott, Gary Cole, Fred Dalton Thompson and John Mahoney.

IN THE LINE OF FIRE has been very slickly produced. Wolfgang Peterson's direction is rock solid and completely draws in the viewer. Anne V. Coates editing is so spectacularly fluid that it causes the film's over two hour running time seem only half as long. John Bailey's Panavision cinematography is exquisite; many sequences are a standout, especially the climax. Ennio Morricone's musical score is one of the best in years. It's powerful, yet it has the kind of subtlety not found in many recent scores.

I had been convinced that the Laserdisc edition of IN THE LINE OF FIRE was an outstanding viewing experience. A few years ago that appraisal carried a lot more weight. In a direct comparison, the DVD totally blows away the Laserdisc. Both the Laserdisc and the DVD transfers are presented in the proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Since the framing of the two transfers appears the same, I’ll assume both the DVD and the Laserdisc masters originated from the same film to tape transfer. Of course, the framing is where the similarities between the DVD and the Laserdisc end. The color fidelity and the clarity of the DVD absolutely wipe the floor with the Laserdisc. The colors on Laserdisc take on a greenish cast when compared to the natural and vibrant colors contained on the DVD. The image on the DVD is also appreciably sharper, smoother looking and better defined. Heck, the Laserdisc looks quite noisy and smeary by comparison.

The digitally encoded Dolby Surround soundtrack has a solid mix, which gives the viewer a true sense of atmosphere in addition to the directional effects. The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack betters the standard Dolby Surround soundtrack with more clearly focused directional effects and deeper, more impressive bass. The DVD audio also features a French language soundtrack. Subtitles are available in Spanish and Korean.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 1997 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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