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If You Lose Even One, You're Finished.
by Jon Schuller

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2016 has been a tumultuous year because of the presidential election and all of the surrounding news and controversies swirling around it. If it's one thing that gets 24 hour media coverage in America, it's politics. Everyone is involved; everyone has an opinion. We're inundated with real and false news stories, everywhere you look. Of course, the movies have been a part of this world almost from their inception. Films about historical events and the people who shaped them are and have been a staple of the cinema, here and around the world. A short list of political films might include:
Birth of a Nation 1915
The President Vanishes 1934
The Man Who Knew Too Much 1934; remade in 1956
The Quiet American 1955
The Manchurian Candidate 1962; remade in 2004
The Candidate 1972
Dave 1993
V For Vendetta 2005
Munich 2005
Milk 2008
I have no doubt that it won't be too long before a film-maker will chronicle 2015/2016 and its on-going aftermaths. This week's column features a major movie from 1993, In The Line of Fire, with a marvelous cast, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, with John Malkovich, Rene Russo, Dylan McDermott, Gary Cole, Fred Dalton Thompson and John Mahoney, directed byWolfgang Petersen, with music by Ennio Morricone. It's the story of a
senior Secret Service agent, still haunted by 1963 and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Frank Horrigan (Eastwood) and his partner, Al D'Andrea (McDermott), are meeting with counterfeiters and its leader, Mendoza, who says Al is an agent and tells Horrigan to shoot him. Frank shoots the bad guys but D'Andrea is shaken up. The pair then investigate a complaint from a landlady that an absent tenant is suspicious. They visit the apartment and find photographs and articles about presidential assassinations. Horrigan receives a phone call from someone called "Booth" who claims to know Frank as the last surviving Secret Service agent on the JFK detail, who lost a president. Frank has spent years haunted by the bad experience, living alone and drinking. Booth tells Frank he's going to kill the president and dares Frank to stop him. Horrigan asks to be returned to the Presidential Protective Detail, despite his age and history. He meets another agent, Lily Raines (Russo) and they become involved with each other.

The man called Booth continues to call Frank, taunting him late at night, following him and watching him drink alone at a bar. Booth continues to remind Horrigan about November, 1963 and Frank's part in the event. He lost a president, Booth reminds him. But Booth makes some mistakes and eventually is identified as Mitch Leary, a former CIA assassin, called a "wet boy" by his colleagues. He is
dangerous and mentally unstable, obsessed with Frank and killing the president. They trace him to a model-making club and one member, Professor Riger (John Heard) who remembers him because of his dangerous political views. Leary's skills include fashioning a gun made entirely of wood. He practices with it at a lake and has to kill, in cold blood, the two hunters who see him using it.

Frank and Al have tracked Leary down and chase him over rooftops in Washington. Leary kills D'Andrea and saves Horrigan's life after Frank jumps, missing a rooftop. Horrigan is again re-assigned to a passive role, instigated by an angry presidential aide, Harry Sargent (Thompson). Frank's boss, Secret Service Director Sam Campagna (Mahoney), still believes in him and gives him another chance.

Leary has traveled to Los Angeles where the president will be attending a major campaign dinner. Leary has established himself as a wealthy i.t. executive from the East Coast and wants to open a bank account. Somehow, he is forced to kill a female bank employee when she realizes he's not from where he claimed to be.

Frank has traced Leary through the bank and the death of the young woman. He connects Leary's false identity to a large campaign donor who's attending the dinner. He leaves the bank in a cab as the driver speeds through the streets to get to the hotel and the banquet. Horrigan obtains a layout of the table seating
arrangements, identifies Leary as he stands with his wooden gun, ready to shoot the president approaching the table. Frank shouts "gun" and jumps in front of president, taking the bullet meant to assassinate him. The president is rushed from the room as Leary grabs Frank as his hostage, getting into an elevator and leaving the lobby.

Lily is the head of the detail and tells her sharpshooters if you have a shot "take him out." Frank still has his earbud device working as Leary describes why he wanted Frank alive, keeping the game going and helping Frank's "miserable, pathetic, life" become more interesting. Frank says to Leary as he's about to shoot him, "aim high" as a signal to the agents below. Shots are fired at the elevator and the two men fight, Horrigan eventually punching Leary through the glass. The assassin chooses to commit suicide. Later Frank and Lily sit outside at the Lincoln Memorial as the movie ends.

In The Line of Fire received many award nominations, including a place on the A.F.I.'s 100 best Heroes and Villains films in 2003. I think it's a realistic movie and deals with the problems of all the people protecting the President, every day, wherever he goes. John Malkovich's multi-faceted portrayal of Mitch Leary received special attention. Becoming the President of the United States has a myriad list of dangers and controversies. Protecting this person may be the second most difficult job in the world.

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Cinema Savant
Every other Thursday

My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.

Other Columns
Other columns by Jon Schuller:

Homage: Respect or Reverence Paid

There's a Call for You. Please Tell Them to Wait.

20 Before. 20 After. 20 Since.

Sit. Relax. Watch. Enjoy. Repeat.

One Is All It Usually Takes

All Columns

Jon Schuller
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for almost 29 years. I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I enjoy sharing my love of films with everyone and have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 50 years (as of December 22, 2018) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Jon Schuller by clicking here.

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