In The Line Of Fire Blu-ray Review

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by Chris McEneany Jun 22, 2008 at 12:00 AM

  • Movies review


    In The Line Of Fire Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £17.99


    Petersen shoots his movie in a gloriously wide 2.40:1 aspect that is crisply reproduced here in a 1080p MPEG-4 transfer that is workmanlike on the whole, but still has one or two moments that shine. The main problem with the transfer is that it is inconsistent. Although pretty clean and certainly stable and damage-free, the definition on offer seems to fluctuate along the way. Occasionally we are treated to quite a gleaming and sharply rendered image that may not lift from the screen, exactly, but does serve to remind you that you are watching a high definition image. Then, at other times, similar elements will sink their finite definition back into themselves and end up supporting an image that, to some eyes, may be little better than SD.

    Colours are spot-on, however, with the primaries looking fine without being too overblown and vivid, and skin-tones quite naturalistic and textured. Clothing has instances when the material is clearly in evidence, and then others in similar lighting, distance and context, when it is not. Interiors have that warm tone that can soften the image up a bit, though, whilst the often bright exteriors - the motorcades and ticker-tape crowds especially - come over as much brighter, polished and visually more interesting. Depth in these crowded street scenes is more than adequate too, with the racing agents, including Frank, puffing and panting alongside the presidential limousine, helping make for a nicely layered image. Reflective surfaces - cars, glass, sunglasses etc - reveal details and the various weaponry and vehicles on display can often have a nice gleam to them. Distance shots aren't the best around, with some of the more rural aspects sheltering their depth from scrutiny, but, as is customary for transfers, the close-ups yield plenty of treasures, with a certain superstar's craggy visage offering up a detailed landscape of its own for study. One detrimental aspect of the new transfer's clarity, however, is that it makes the CG assisted mock-ups of a younger Eastwood placed within footage of JFK on that fateful day in Dallas appear all the more bogus - which isn't so good.

    Blacks are good and shadow-play is demonstrably deep enough to add visual depth and atmosphere to some of the more tense sequences, and I didn't detect any level of detail being lost within them. Contrast has one or two shots that look purposely jacked-up but, in the main, presents no problems. There is grain across the picture, but noise, artefacts, blocking or other compression issues do not pose any problems. Some edges have definitely been enhanced along the way, but I doubt that this would be enough to upset anybody. I also thought I detected some very slight motion-drag during pans of the amassed spectators as the cavalcade sweeps in, but this was only minute and is unlikely to cause a problem, either. Thus, In The Line Of Fire, without winning any awards, passes muster for a very respectable 7 out of 10.

    In The Line Of Fire Picture


    I've got to say that I didn't expect a great deal from the TrueHD 5.1 track supplied here on BD. In The Line Of Fire has never struck me as a particularly vibrant movie in the audio department, but the lossless mix here actually quite surprised me with a clean, dynamic and reasonably immersive soundscape that enhanced the movie considerably. Morricone's score is deep, swelling and warm and, unlike some other people have claimed, I did not find that it swamped dialogue to any degree of detriment. Speech, on the whole, is very good indeed. From the rock-grating voice of Clint to Malkovich's somnambulist drone, the track reproduces the dialogue just fine. Oh, and the barking of the German Shepherd is suitably punchy and breath-snatching, too.

    When things go ballistic, gunshots are deep, reverberant and, at times, shockingly aggressive. Cleary's self-made firearm really rips through the air - the lakeside double-killing is a standout. Certain things, such as the smashing of glass, either by Frank's baton or the firing into an elevator by numerous snipers, don't have that sharpness, separation or clarity that a newer release would have and impacts don't always have much oomph, but the film feels spacious across the front and reasonably energetic.

    Of course, given the nature of the original material, some of the wraparound effects come across as a little forced. The motorcade's outriders, for instance, flare up a roar or two as they drift past you and out of the rears. However, what is nice about precisely such a detail is that it makes perfect sense, as when the camera - or us - sits squat in the middle of the presidential procession and the motorbikes peel around us on either side. These aren't effects for the sake of effects, they follow the onscreen action. It's just that they can sometimes sound a little less natural than many other audio transfers, with the odd steered voice not sounding as authentic as I would have liked. Crowd scenes are detailed and immersive, such as the balloon-popping gathering which also supplies some great camera-flashes going off with well-rendered pops and krumps as poor Frank gets deluged by the paparazzi. And listen out for the incendiary moment when Frank finally hits a raw nerve on Leary and Malkovich suddenly roars down the phone about the “respect” he feels he deserves.

    But, again, what pleased me most about the new audio mix for the film was the amount of ambience that was brought out of the rears. Naturally used primarily for the crowd scenes, this added a lot of atmosphere to the proceedings and definitely worked towards enhancing the experience as far as I am concerned. It wouldn't say that the panning around the speakers was totally seamless, but I did enjoy the efforts made by this mix to give the movie a greater width and surround dynamism.

    In The Line Of Fire Sound


    Petersen's commentary goes through the usual motions of talking-up his cast, his writer and the adherence to detail as far as the Secret Service is concerned. He provides plenty of production trivia and a few insights into the story and character development and the integral part that Eastwood played. But there is little energy or wit to his quite technical spiel making this prompted chat-track seem quite dry and occasionally a bit of a slog.

    Showtime Special: Behind the Scenes with the Secret Service” (20 minutes) is hosted by the film's Technical Adviser and Retired Secret Service Agent, Bob Snow. Almost a recruitment ad for the US Secret Service, this little exposé of what the organization does and how it co-operated with the filmmakers for In The Line Of Fire does also allow us a couple of interviews with the likes of Eastwood and Wolfgang Petersen. It isn't bad of its kind - certainly a little bit more interesting than many such EPK coverage - but still nothing extraordinary or something that even the biggest fan would rush back to.

    We then get a five-minute “How'd They Do That?” snippet showing how they placed the younger Clint Eastwood in the same shots as the real JFK. Obviously this sort of thing is now extremely old hat and, it must also be stated, considerably less convincing than it once looked.

    The first of two sister mini-documentaries then follows with Catching the Counterfeiters (5 minutes), which is another chance for the Secret Service - who really haven't had their exploits put on film all that often - to remind us what they do and how they do it. Hardly detailed and, to be honest, barely even interesting. Then, as a follow-up, we get the better and more involving Ultimate Sacrifice, which comes in at around twenty-two minutes and is basically paying homage to the US Secret Service. We meet good old Bob Snow once more - the ex-department chief who went on to become the film's technical advisor and now runs a company specialising in aiding movies about the service and about Washington in general (!), and we hear from field agent or two and then some of the top brass, who all give their praise of the movie and how it portrayed them. What is nice, beyond the rather obvious “bigging-up” of their duties and abilities, is the footage of them training - with exploding cars and house raids taking precedence over boring criminal procedures. The history of the organisation is delivered with especial regards to how much it was forced to alter and improve in the wake of JFK's assassination, and we get comments from screenwriter Jeff McGuire and various members of the cast - although it has to be said that both Eastwood and McDermott mumble sentences yet tell us absolutely nothing.

    Although the batch of five Deleted Scenes (5 mins) may be nice to have, they offer nothing of relevance and are really only superficial.

    In all, this selection may look appealing when splashed across the back of the box but, in reality, it leaves a lot to be desired. A commentary that is a little too stale, featurettes that do nothing but nothing extol the virtues of the US Secret Service and tell us next to nothing about the film, itself. Pretty poor stuff in my opinion.


    A great film with a more than reasonable AV transfer, but lacklustre and repetitive bonus features. In The Line Of Fire is a smart companion-piece to Unforgiven and a terrific showcase for Eastwood. The tension is cranked up with aplomb and the performances from the stars are way above average. It may be true that the actual detective work and the frequent phone-call confrontations between Frank and Leary are much more satisfying than the action scenes, but the film has a hurtling momentum that doesn't let up and some very appreciated comical asides from Eastwood who is clearly having fun with the role. I'm sure that Sony's disc is a worthwhile upgrade in the audio stakes - the film is definitely punchier and more active than I remember it being - but I can't comment on how much of an improvement the video actually is. It certainly has instances that gleam, but this is not a disc that you would spin in order to show off how good they are at bringing catalogue titles into the hi-def world. But, all things considered, Wolfgang Petersens's thriller offers good, nail-biting intrigue, a couple of hair-trigger set-pieces and a main character that you can't help but fall for.

    Not worth taking a bullet for, but In The Line Of Fire is well worth sacrificing a few quid for, nevertheless.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.99

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