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Film Talk: Looking Back – Blocking bullets with In the Line of Fire

To pick one film that encapsulates Clint Eastwood at his grizzled finest is a tall order.

Clint Eastwood in 1993's In the Line of Fire
Clint Eastwood in 1993's In the Line of Fire

From 'Dirty' Harry Callahan to the Man with No Name, Eastwood's catalogue of rough and rugged hard men has been a pillar of cinema history for over 60 years.

There is one little gem from the 90s however that – despite its critical and commercial success – often gets forgotten, yet is a brilliant example of classic Clint in all his glory. Let's do this...

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, 1993's In the Line of Fire was, and remains, a stunning political action thriller that defined the genre.

Written by Jeff Maguire, the flick stars Eastwood in the leading role of an ageing US Secret Service agent with guilt on his shoulders, and the sublime John Malkovich as a deranged would-be assassin about to put him through his paces one last time.

With a cast completed by Rene Russo, Dylan McDermott, Gary Cole, John Mahoney, and Fred Dalton Thompson, In the Line of Fire boasted an impressive guest list. Petersen and Maguire only needed to sit back and watch them hit their mark.

Haunted by his failure to save John F. Kennedy from an assassin's bullet 30 years ago, Secret Service Agent Frank Horrigan (Eastwood) is tortured with guilt and the mark of failure.

But when a deranged former C.I.A. assassin (Malkovich) begins to make threats to the current President's life, Horrigan has no intention of failing again.

Ensuring he is assigned to Presidential protection duty, Horrigan joins forces with fellow agent Lilly Raines (Russo) to shield his Commander in Chief from harm as he campaigns for re-election.

Yet with a well-trained opponent possessing as big a score to settle as his own, has Horrigan met his match and will history repeat itself?

Grossing $187 million against a $40 million budget and banking three Oscar nominations, In the Line of Fire ticked all the boxes of success.

In the role of long-in-the-tooth lawman, Eastwood was naturally sublime, while Malkovich was typically hypnotic as an unhinged yet highly intelligent psychopath.

As a leading lady, Russo was one of the darlings of the 90s, and her performance here is testament to why she was held in such high regard. A decade of work that also included two Lethal Weapon flicks, disease drama Outbreak, 1996's Ransom, and the Pierce Brosnan remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, the 90s was Russo's time – yet this one in particular may have been her finest hour.

Since In the Line Of Fire, Clint Eastwood has gone on to star in and direct some fantastic bits of cinema. We need only take 2004's Million Dollar Baby as proof that the best was yet to come. But as a chap who was born in the 80s and grew up in the 90s, this one will always be 'my Clint' (it may have even been the first flick I ever saw him in), and will hold a special place in my Kevlar-covered heart for evermore.

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