In the Line of Fire is a proficiently made thriller pitting Clint Eastwood’s vet Secret Service agent against John Malkovich’s insidious would-be presidential assassin.
Frank Horrigan (Eastwood) has been haunted since Nov. 22, 1963, by the possibility that he could have saved John F. Kennedy’s life. As JFK’s favorite Secret Service agent, Horrigan was with the president in Dallas, and was closest to him when the shot rang out.
It’s this weakness that is manipulated by Mitch Leary (Malkovich), a professional assassin who makes no secret of his intention to kill the current president sometime before the election.
Horrigan wins an assignment to cover the chief of state while he tries to nail Leary, who calls to every so often to taunt him, and at the same time must endure the gibes of his colleagues, who consider him a ‘borderline burnout with questionable social skills’ and a ‘dinosaur’.
What neophyte scripter Jeff Maguire’s plot comes down to is the cat-and-mouse game between Horrigan and Leary, and the craftiness and strategies involved on both sides, while not exactly ingenious, are tantalizing enough to compel interest.
Director Wolfgang Petersen sends the story efficiently down its straight and narrow track, deftly engineering the battle of wills between two desperately committed men.
Eastwood splendidly gives Horrigan humor, grit and imagination. Malkovich provides a delicious villain, a true psychopath so sure of himself that he’s willing to give his pursuer half a chance of catching him.
1993: Nominations: Best Supp. Actor (John Malcovich), Original Screenplay, Film Editing