Sony delivers a top-notch 4K for Eastwood’s “In the Line of Fire”

Updated: Jun 19


4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS

Clint Eastwood plays veteran Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan, who battles a trained government killer Mitch Leary played by John Malkovich, who threatens to kill the U.S. President.


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“IN THE LINE OF FIRE”

4K Ultra HD & Digital copy; 1993; R for violence, profanity and sexuality; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)

Best extra: Commentary with director Wolfgang Petersen (“Air Force One”)






PRODUCER JEFF APPLE had been inspired by the story of a guilt-driven Secret Service agent since his teenage years. Decades later in 1990, he commissioned novice screenwriter Jeff Maguire to finalize the premise: Veteran Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood), who failed to protect JFK from assassination, gets a chance to redeem himself when trained government killer Mitch Leary (John Malkovich) threatens the current president.

During one of the four documentaries carried over from previous editions, Eastwood says, “I love playing flawed characters, who have got to overcome something inside of them.” The Horrigan character is based on real-life agent Clint Hill, who jumped onto the presidential limo in Dallas after the shots rang out on November 22, 1963. Hill gave two CBS “60-Minute” interviews about it in 1975 and 1990.

Petersen and cast had full cooperation from the U.S. Secret Service, a first for Hollywood. Former agent Bob Snow spent nine months with the production as technical advisor. He was “invaluable,” says executive producer Gail Katz. She recalls Snow was there every day, and “whenever there was a question he was there to answer.” Co-star Rene Russo, who plays agent Lilly Raines, researched her role by meeting with a number of female agents assigned during the presidential campaign of 1992.


(1) “In the Line of Fire” was Wolfgang Petersens first big-budgeted American film. (2) Agent Frank Horrigan and his partner Al DAndrea meet a counterfeiting ring. (3) The ring leader Mendoza (Tobin Bell) shows Horrigan the funny money. (4) Mendoza suspects DAndrea as an undercover agent and wants Horrigan to kill him.






A 20-minute featurette highlights the behind-scenes of the Service, while another pinpoints its mission to stop counterfeiters. President Lincoln initiated the service in 1865 for that very purpose. It seems up to fifty percent of the currency during the final days of the Civil War was counterfeit.

During the commentary, Petersen recalls how actor/producer/director Eastwood, who was perfect for the role, had the final call in selecting the director. The actor had just won the Oscar for his Western, “Unforgiven,” and wanted a European director for “In the Line of Fire.” “He loved ‘Das Boot’ and ‘Shattered,’” two of Petersen's previous films. The German director was shocked that Eastwood didn’t want to direct “Fire,” but says “he was full of respect, and it was my big Hollywood break.”

Beginning at the opening credits, Petersen gives high praise to his Italian composer, the great Ennio Morricone, whose career goes all the way back to the famous Sergio Leone Westerns starring a younger Clint Eastwood. “I’m so proud we got him for this film," he says. Also moderating the 20-year-old commentary is DVD producer J.M. Kenny, who provides a number of backstories including how co-star Dylan McDermott was excited about the opportunity to play Horrigan’s partner Al D’Andrea, even though he knew "they all end up dead."

“In the Line of Fire” was a big-time summer blockbuster for Columbia Pictures finishing at No. 7 in the yearly box office, landing between “Indecent Proposal” and “Aladdin.” “Jurassic Park” took the top spot and “The Fugitive” was second.


(1) Horrigan investigates a complaint from a landlord about one of her tenants. He finds a collage of photographs and newspaper articles related to the JFK assassination and a Time Magazine cover with the Presidents head circled. (2) The tenant watches Horrigan from across the street. (3&4) The next day Horrigan and his partner return and only find a single photograph left on the wall. And, it shows a younger Horrigan riding in the JFK motorcade in Dallas on November 22, 1963.







VIDEO

This is clearly Sony’s best 4K remastering job of the year so far. The original camera negative was captured on Panavision cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio) and fitted with anamorphic lens from cinematographer John Bailey (“Silverado”). It was scanned in TRUE 4K, where the digital files were graded for the expansive HDR10 and Dolby Vision (digital). From the opening frames to the final image, the movie is unbelievably sharp, with natural film grain and bright, crisp grading, controlled highlights, and deep dark shadows.

Since the launch of the 4K format, most of the 4K/HDR presentations from all the studios have been darker than its HD counterparts. Sometimes they’ve been way too dark. Here, the picture is perfectly balanced. Facial toning is natural and rich, offering superb clarity, extracting every mark on the actors’ faces, as well as the finest of detail and texture in their costumes. Exterior scenes are particularly detailed, as in showing thousands of onlookers during a presidential motorcade in Washington D.C. There’s also a campaign rally in Denver, where Petersen used footage from a Clinton/Gore rally, and digitally inserted his own president. Now the Clinton/Gore signs are readable because of the 4K resolution.

AUDIO

Sony has also created a new eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack. It’s also first-rate from the effects to the music cues of Morricone’s score. Overall fidelity is top-notch in bass response, as in the passing motorcycles and gunshots. The front and center dialogue is never lost. Strings, electronic keyboard and brass all ring true.

“In the Line of Fire” was highly praised by critics and received three Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor for John Malkovich, Best Screenplay for Jeff Maguire, and Film Editing for Anne V. Coates.

This is one for the 4K collection.

— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer


(1) Horrigan starts to receive a number of phone calls from the tenant who calls himself “Booth.” He like John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald plans to kill the President. (2) Horrigan and Secret Service leaders meet and start their investigation of Booth. (3) Rene Russo plays agent Lilly Raines. (4&5) Despite his age Horrigan asks to return to the Presidential Protective Detail during the French Presidents visit to Washington D.C.







(1) A black-tie dinner for the French and U.S. Presidents. (2) Agent Lilly Raines and Horrigan have after-work ice cream on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. (3) Booth is Mitch Leary and alias James Carney, who follows a Los Angeles bank worker home to cover his tracks and surprised by her roommate. (4) Leary continues to make his custom dual-barrel Composite Pistol as his weapon to assassinate the President of the United States.





(1&2) Leary starts to follow the president across the country during his reelection campaign, including a stop in Denver. (3) Two hunters find Leary with his special gun. (4) Horrigan has a drink with Secret Service Director Sam Campagna (John Mahoney) after being removed from Presidential Protective Detail after he gave a false alarm call for a gun. (5) An accomplished jazz pianist and composer Eastwood plays several times during the film. (6) Leary meets with top California campaign supporters of the president to insure his seat at the high priced campaign dinner.



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