Authorguy's Blog

Tying it all together 4

Posted on: March 27, 2011


I recently rewatched one of my favorite non-fantasy-type movies, In The Line of Fire, a suspense thriller starring Clint Eastwood as a Secret Service agent, challenged by an assassin to protect the President. Why did I rewatch it, you ask? Well, it’s not like I need a reason but I had one this time. My latest WIP is a bit of a change of pace for me, more in the suspense/thriller line than I usually do. So it seemed to me to make sense to watch a good thriller and see what I could pick up from it in terms of pacing, tone, etc., as well as ideas for the story itself. As always there are spoilers below.

While this is a strongly plotted film, the heart of the story is not suspenseful or political, but personal. The villain is not serving some agenda, nor is the hero, Frank Horrigan, doing anything but his job. At no point is the political affiliation of the President or his people even mentioned, or if it is, I missed it and don’t really care anyway. Many parts of the movie are of little interest to me, as they serve only the plot. While I have no objection to purely plot-related elements, they only need to be seen once. And since they’re often unpleasant, I only want to see them only once, which is yet another reason I like character-driven stories.

In some respects the theme of the story is betrayal. Both Mitch, the villain, and Frank were just doing their jobs, and both were punished for it. Mitch turns his monstrousness on his creators. At story-open, Frank had been wallowing in his own self-perceived guilt for failing to protect the president 30 years before, ands is betrayed repeatedly by superiors on the basis of that and other failures. Frank is saved by two things, a colleague and love-interest, Lilly, and strangely, by Mitch himself, the only person to believe and support Frank at the beginning. As Mitch defends Frank and toys with his superiors (defeating their technology, leading them on goose chases, etc.) Lilly also starts to believe in and defend Frank. Frank also comes to believe in himself, when a chance remark results in him unraveling Mitch’s plan and returning against orders to foil it almost too late.  Mitch considers himself to be Frank’s greatest and perhaps only real friend, as is shown by his sacrifice at the end, coupled with Frank’s redemption and new life with Lilly.

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