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Author Topic: IN THE LINE OF FIRE: The Story: 3. The Secret Service  (Read 3181 times)
KC
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« on: August 18, 2003, 12:24:43 AM »

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We basically gave Secret Service lessons to our actors and talked about it with them over and over again to make sure everything we were doing was as accurate as possible. The public may not know it, but we wanted to make sure the Secret Service would watch the movie and say, "Yeah, that's the way it's done."
(Gail Katz, Executive Producer, from the documentary The Ultimate Sacrifice on the In the Line of Fire Special Edition DVD)

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I sort of had some preconceived ideas that maybe these would be pretty tough women, but it ran the gamut, it really did. They didn't want me in a skirt. They wanted to make sure that I had pants on, that I had the right kind of shoes on, and that I had the right attitude.
(Rene Russo, from the documentary Behind the Scenes with the Secret Service on the In the Line of Fire Special Edition DVD)

The Secret Service worked closely with the filmmakers of In the Line of Fire to make sure the agent portrayals and procedures were as accurate as possible. Bob Snow, a retired Assistant Director for the Secret Service, worked as Technical Advisor on the film, while other agents met with the actors to get their look, demeanor and actions down. Do you feel the actors came across realistically? How do you feel this film reflects on the Secret Service? Does it improve the image of the agency in your opinion?
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Brendan
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« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2003, 10:23:15 AM »

I remember listening to the commentary on the DVD for The Sum of All Fears, and Tom Clancy kept saying 'ah, they wouldnt do that.' or 'that would never happen like that.' or 'thats wrong.'

So too me it seemed liked the maker of Sum/Fears didnt even bother to ask the writer of the book with which the movie was based off of for his opinions.

But with ITLOF, I felt everything was realistic and believable. The movie didn't protray them as bumbling idiots or a bunch of slackers.
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Lilly
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« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2003, 08:19:41 AM »

In The Line Of Fire stands out from the cornucopia of thrillers based around law enforcement agencies because the plot, the characters, and the action seem realistic.  I'm sure the involvement of the Secret Service played a considerable part in creating such authenticity.  So often movies incorporate fancy, unrealistic special effects, or have characters say and do things that are not believable.  This can make decent entertainment, but it isn't thought provoking because the audience knows it's fantasy.  Most people have no way to know how agents might behave in particular situations, so the advice of the USSS must have been invaluable.  I recall from one of the DVD featurettes someone describing how the USSS advisors had shown Eastwood and Russo how to run alongside the President's limousine with one hand on the car so that they could follow its movements exactly without having to look down and away from the crowd.  Little things like that might not seem important, but they add authenticity.  Maybe it's not noticed by all the audience, but with repeated viewing it's the little touches that stand out.  And I think the advice on Russo's wardrobe was particularly important.  It would have spolit her part if she was dressed up like a fairy just to look good.  

Of course artistic licence is used at the expense of realism in places.  I remember on the DVD Petersen (I think) saying that real Secret Service offices are small, stuffy rooms like anywhere, but that the set designers decided to use an open plan office for better effect.  Russo's outfit in the French Embassy scene is apparently also unrealistic, and I have to say that was one of the few parts of the film that made me think, "hang on she wouldn't wear that!".  Quoting the article Inside the Secret Service, by Joel Achenbach from WashingtonPost.com:

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Slinky or not, women agents carry the same gear as the men. "A female agent couldn't dress like that," says Snow.
But it was worth sacrificing realism for that look Clint gives her, and his line,
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I was just wondering where you hide your firearm.
;D

The same article has some other quibbles:

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...the killer's use of a plastic gun that doesn't register on a magnetometer is not realistic. The technology to make such a gun doesn't exist, they say.

In fact the movie, for all its input from the Secret Service, is hardly a documentary. In the first scene, Clint blows away a couple of goons with some classic one-handed no-look gunplay, then heads over to his favorite saloon to play cool jazz on the piano and knock back a few highballs. (Perhaps the scene where he fills out the paperwork ended on the cutting room floor.)

The Hollywood formulas keep firing away, rat-a-tat-tat: There's the obligatory hot young babe agent who is headed for Clint's embrace and may reform some of his sexist notions; there's the incredibly stupid presidential aide who won't cancel a risky event because "we're trailing 12 points in the latest polls"; there's the hero's partner, who, like all partners in Hollywood law enforcement dramas, ought to have Short Life Expectancy branded on his forehead; there's trembly-handed dangling from high places.

Well, it's still a movie and will always have embellishments, but I don't think these did any harm.  

In general the film reflects well on the Secret Service (though not too well on the CIA!).  It shows the private side of an agent, as a normal person at home as well as a "hero" at work.  No doubt there were things they weren't totally happy with, not least the possibilty of copycat assassination attempts (source as above):

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...there's no way that anyone at the Secret Service could avoid the copycat issue. No one can forget that John Hinckley was inspired by the fictitious Travis Bickle in Martin Scorsese's 1976 movie "Taxi Driver."

"Is there a possibility of contagion? Sure there is. Are we concerned about it? Extremely. Is there anything we can do about it? No," says Meyer [Carl Meyer, a Secret Service spokesman].

The movie producers, he says, wouldn't budge from the assassin-based plot.

"We wanted a different story plot," he says. "But it was not something we could negotiate."

Nevertheless the film portrays agents as hard-working, dedicated, and - perhaps most importantly - successful people.  I wouldn't be surprised if the USSS received an increase in job applications in late 1993.

It's worth reading the rest of the Inside the Secret Service article.  It also has a link to pages on D.C. locations used in the film.  
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mgk
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« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2003, 01:22:02 PM »

As usual, another really excellent post from you, Lilly. :)

One general concept that keeps running through my mind when reading what you have said and some of the article that you have quoted is that one major difference between the real Secret Service and this movie about the Secret Service is that the movie is meant to entertain and I doubt that the job description of any Secret Service agent includes any rules about entertaining anyone. In reality, the job of a Secret Service agent is often slow to the boring point but, when it isn't boring, it probably increases the adrenaline.  It was nice to see a movie that finally gave a little insight into the Secret Service and did so in a positive and entertaining way.  Therefore, as Lilly says, "Well, it's still a movie and will always have embellishments, but I don't think these did any harm."

Another paragraph in the article that Lilly quoted here that I found not only interesting but informative is this one:

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Agents have to be simultaneously observant and unimpressionable; they cannot be distracted by the irrelevant detail, the glamorous celebrity, the political rhetoric. Titles don't carry weight with the Secret Service; if someone pulls rank, an agent will politely note that John Wilkes Booth claimed to be a senator as he talked his way toward Lincoln.

If you keep that first sentence in mind and rewatch the scenes where there are large gatherings of people, it's hard to imagine, at least for me, how the agents aren't distracted by some of the activities going on all around them.  How do you really concentrate on such an important and intense job one hundred percent of the time?  It just seems impossible but, as we can imagine, it is the result of some really intense job training.  The second sentence talks about the fact that "titles don't carry weight" and I immediately thought about the encounters between the White House Chief of Staff, Harry Sargent, (Fred Thompson) and Horrigan (Eastwood).  It was so comical to see Horrigan attack the character of this person who has such an impressive title and expose him for his foolishness and his tunnel vision on the election polls instead of being concerned for the safety of his boss.  Then, the third sentence about the real Booth claiming to be a senator in his attempt to get close to Lincoln reminds me of the scene where Horrigan mistakenly thinks a bell boy is one of the suspects Horrigan finds in his stack of photos.  All of these scenes help to establish what can be so routine for a real Secret Service Agent.

Another portion of that same article that Lilly quoted and included in her post was:

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The Hollywood formulas keep firing away, rat-a-tat-tat: There's the obligatory hot young babe agent who is headed for Clint's embrace and may reform some of his sexist notions; there's the incredibly stupid presidential aide who won't cancel a risky event because "we're trailing 12 points in the latest polls"; there's the hero's partner, who, like all partners in Hollywood law enforcement dramas, ought to have Short Life Expectancy branded on his forehead; there's trembly-handed dangling from high places.

So, to answer part of the original question of this thread, yes, I think the actors came across realistically and I think that it does improve the image of the Secret Service and it provides us with a view into the more personal and more positive side of being an agent and the film definitely benefited from the expert technical advice it received from Bob Snow and other agency representatives.  I also thought it was interesting that the filmmakers reminded us of what the Secret Service was originally founded for.......to stop the counterfeiting of money...as it so interestingly presented to us at the very beginning of the film and which carefully reminded us that the life expectancy of an agent can quite possibly be short.
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Lilly
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« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2003, 12:30:03 PM »

 :) Nice points mgk 8).

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it's hard to imagine, at least for me, how the agents aren't distracted by some of the activities going on all around them.  How do you really concentrate on such an important and intense job one hundred percent of the time?
Yeah, I guess Frank was guilty of being distracted by Lilly at the French Embassy; for a moment his eyes certainly weren't on potential assassins! ;D

Quoting mgk again:
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I also thought it was interesting that the filmmakers reminded us of what the Secret Service was originally founded for.......to stop the counterfeiting of money...as it so interestingly presented to us at the very beginning of the film and which carefully reminded us that the life expectancy of an agent can quite possibly be short.
Agreed; it was good background showing that there's more to their job than protection duties.  I also like the carefree way in which D'Andrea first mentions that there is a wacko that needs checking out, and the lack of concern with which Horrigan initially treats this work; it's routine for USSS to check out threats, and they rarely expect them to be so serious.  

I came across these comments in a review on RollingStone.com:
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Since Fire is the first film made with Secret Service cooperation, there's a lot of indigestible government propaganda to swallow in Jeff McGuire's bloated script.
I hadn't seen it that way.  Does anyone else see "propaganda" in the script?
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Brendan
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« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2003, 01:12:28 PM »

Hmmm... I don't recall any propaganda, but it would be interesting to see what Rolling Stone thinks is propaganda from this movie.
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Matt
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« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2003, 04:00:47 PM »

Does anyone else find it odd that Petersen gave us such a realistic portrayal of the Secret Service in this film, and then four years later gave us Air Force One where other members have noted in the Harrison Ford thread that the portrayal of the Secret Service was "idiotic"?  

I'll have to watch Air Force One again, since I have no memory of it. But I find it strange that he would go to such lengths to portray them so accurately in one film, and not care about authenticity in another.
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Brendan
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« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2003, 07:32:23 PM »

Differant studio, differant producers maybe?  :-\
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mgk
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« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2003, 05:59:24 PM »

Thanks to everyone for participating in this discussion. This topic is now closed, please post any additional thoughts in the General Discussion forum.
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