It’s not easy to make a thriller work. The basics are always pretty much the same: chases, false alerts, confrontations, etc. But to make all that work, the audience has to care about the characters and be totally absorbed by the story. By that definition, “In The Line Of Fire” might be the perfect thriller. First, the story is very good. It’s about the confrontation between a Secret Service agent and a psychopath threatening to kill the President. This premise is very interesting, and the screenplay written around it is extremely good. It’s smart, original and gripping. It also features many references to the JFK assassination. I rented this film and Oliver Stone’s “JFK” the same week, and those two masterpieces works really well seen together. “In The Line Of Fire” could be the (fictional) sequel to “JFK”.
Like I said before, the characters are important. Here, they’re just great. The hero is masterfully played by Clint Eastwood. He’s like we love to see him: tough yet sensitive, deadpan yet funny. And of course, he’s got that unique face. I like the way Eastwood can play piano and flirt in one scene and kill thugs in another. He’s a brilliant actor. The assassin is played by John Malkhovich, one of the finest actors ever. He’s extremely talented in playing bad guys. He really looks scary. Here, his character is fantastic. It’s a very smart criminal, crazy but still brilliant. The relation between Eastwood’s and Malkhovich’s characters is very interesting. It’s always fun when two seemingly opposite guys confront, talk and find out that they have many things in common.
The other important character is a partner of Eastwood played by Rene Russo. She brings unexpected romance in the plot. Wolfgang Petersen’s direction is brilliant. His film is very exciting. The tension is always building up. The confrontations between the two leads are exhilarating. This movie is one of the best thrillers I’ve ever seen. Suspense, action, a great script, dynamic direction and an excellent cast: the perfect recipe for a very memorable film.