When it comes to Clint Eastwood and classics, the list is long and distinguished. From his Spaghetti westerns to his crime-fighting days as Dirty Harry, Eastwood has a number of films he can rightfully call classic. One such classic has made its way to the Netflix streaming service, and it also happens to be one of the highest-rated critical successes of his remarkable career.
In the Line of Fire is the 1993 political action thriller that stars Clint Eastwood as Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan, a man who has been on the job for a long time and is haunted by his failure to protect President John F. Kennedy.
When we first meet Frank, he is undercover with his partner Al D’Andrea (Dylan McDermott). The two are about to blow the cover off a counterfeit ring. With Al’s cover blown, Frank is forced to show his loyalty by putting a gun to Al’s head. Frank does, pulling the trigger. When the gun simply clicks, Frank then shoots the surrounding gang before arresting their leader.
Having established Frank’s ability to perform under fire, he and Al are sent to investigate a complaint from a landlady concerning one of her tenants. When they arrive at the apartment, they find a collage of newspaper articles and pictures concerning famous assassinations that includes a Time magazine cover with the current President’s head circled.
When the pair return with a search warrant, they return to just one picture. That being a photograph of a much younger Frank Horrigan standing behind JFK in Dallas, 1963, the day that he was assassinated. Frank’s guilt for not being able to save JFK drove him to the bottle, which effectively caused his family to leave him.
Frank receives a phone call from a man calling himself Booth (John Malkovich). Booth shares with Frank that he intends to kill the President. Frank, despite his advancing age, requests a return to the Presidential Protective Detail, where he meets up with fellow agent Lilly Raines (Rene Russo).
The game of cat and mouse begins as Booth continues to call Frank, mocking him for his failure to protect JFK. After a close encounter with Booth, Frank and Al learn from the CIA that Booth is really Mitch Leary, an ex-CIA assassin who has suffered a mental breakdown and is now considered a predator.
Meanwhile, Al has informed Frank that because of the close call they had at the beginning of the film, he plans on retiring immediately. Frank talks Al into staying on through them taking down Leary, a move that will come back to haunt them.
In the Line of Fire is a taut, well-paced action thriller. Clint Eastwood is completely believable as the aging Secret Service agent, trying to somehow make up for what he considers his failure in protecting JFK.
While Clint Eastwood and the movie itself received high praise, John Malkovich was clearly the standout in the film. For his portrayal of Booth, Malkovich was nominated for both an Academy Award and BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor. The film was also nominated for both the Academy and BAFTA for Jeff Maguire’s original screenplay.
Wolfgang Petersen, who is also known for films like The NeverEnding Story, Enemy Mine, the underrated twisty thriller Shattered, Outbreak, and Air Force One, made the most of his $40 million budget. In total, Petersen’s film brought home $187 million at the box office.
As mentioned, and critically speaking, In the Line of Fire is one of Clint Eastwood’s top films. The movie enjoys a 96% favorable critics rating that sets it up next to some of his other highly rated films like A Fistful of Dollars, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Escape From Alcatraz, and Unforgiven, a film in which Eastwood took home his first Best Director Academy Award.
In the Line of Fire is not the first time Clint Eastwood has played the cop hero. Perhaps his most famous character is “Dirty” Harry Callahan, who first saw action in the 1971 film Dirty Harry. Eastwood would then go on to play Dirty Harry four more times – Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact (1983), and finally The Dead Pool (1988) which also featured the arrival of a very young Jim Carrey.
What is rare about Clint Eastwood’s role in In the Line of Fire is that it is one of the rare instances in his later career that Eastwood wasn’t both in front and behind the camera. Eastwood has directed himself in a number of films to include the three movies previous to In the Line of Fire (White Hunter Black Heart, The Rookie, and Unforgiven) as well as the eleven movies Eastwood starred in following Fire.
Speaking of which, next up for the now 91-years young actor/director will be Cry Macho. Clint Eastwood returns to the dual role as actor and director, so make sure you get out and see it. While the famous actor has no current plans to call it quits, no one could ever blame the man if he decided to hang up his spurs.
You can catch a younger Clint Eastwood in the great political action thriller, In the Line of Fire, on Netflix.