In the crosshairs (4K UHD review)
1993 (June 15, 2021)
Columbia Pictures / Castle Rock / Apple-Rose Productions (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film / program rating: B +
- Video quality: A
- Audio level: A
- Category of extras: B
Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood) is a US Secret Service agent at the end of his career in Washington DC. He protected several American presidents during his time, but it is the one he failed to protect, John F. Kennedy, that continues to haunt him. But when he’s tasked with checking out a random local wacko named Joseph McCrawley (John Malkovich), whose odd behavior has been reported by his landlady, it turns out that said wacko not only spots Horrigan, but identifies him … and the calls the phone home to talk. McCrawley, who is of course not the man’s real name, categorically tells Horrigan that he intends to kill the current president, who is in the middle of a re-election campaign, and he sees Horrigan as a strong opponent in his “catch me if you can.” When Horrigan reports this to his superiors, the White House downplays the danger. But the current detail of the President’s Secret Service, led by Agents Watts and Raines (Gary Cole and Rene Russo), must take it seriously, and as the evidence for the threat grows, Horrigan and his still-green partner (Dylan McDermott) find themselves at the center of McCrawley’s deadly cat-and-mouse game.
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen (Das Botte, Epidemic, Air Force One), In the crosshairs is one of those solid psychological action thrillers that don’t stand out in any aspect, but are so solidly built all around that the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. The pace is slow by modern standards, the direction and cinematography aren’t flashy, and the plot was standard fare even when this movie was new. But in his heart, In the crosshairs is a character drama, and these characters are so well written and performed that you can’t help but be drawn to them. The Eastwood Horrigan is a man who knows he’s a dinosaur in the modern Secret Service, in danger of overwhelming his welcome. But he was given a chance to make up for his biggest mistake, so he can’t go away. (In fact, McCrawley would never let him, even if his superiors forced him to.) Editing Anne Coates is a master class of efficiency, which really makes sense when you learn that she cut Laurence of Arabia as well as. And while Ennio Morricone’s score feels both outdated and oddly romantic, every tip seems ill-suited to the subject, but somehow it works.
In the crosshairs was shot on 35mm photochemical film using Aaton 35-III, Panavision Panaflex Gold II and Panavision Panaflex X cameras with Panavision anamorphic lenses, and it was finished on film in 2.39: 1 aspect ratio. For its Ultra HD release, Sony scanned the original camera negative and the main interpositive (for optics, titles and transitions) to create a native 4K digital intermediate with a new grading for high dynamic range ( HDR10 is available on this disc). This remastering process was overseen by cinematographer John Bailey and approved by Petersen. The result is absolutely spectacular image quality with just one qualification (more details in a moment). The improvement in resolution is remarkable, with exquisite fine detail visible in the texture of skin, hair, suit fabric, tie patterns, building materials, and more. The grain texture is light-moderate to light, but it remains present and organic at all times. Gone is the slightly overly green, washed-out, digital look of the previous Blu-ray release. Colors are saturated and precise at all times – skin tones, foliage, flags, etc. – and the extended range adds a nice naturalism. There is a shot of the French Embassy (in Chapter 5) with an orchestra playing in front of a hanging tapestry; the colors of the tapestry present remarkably nuanced shades of green, olive, beige, brown and blue-gray. Still, the walls are a pretty salmon pink, and the American and French flags are teeming with vibrant blue, white, red, and gold fringes. Additionally, the contrast has been extended to produce wonderfully dark but detailed shadows, while the brighter parts of the image are bright enough to be responsive to the eyes. And that’s where that qualifier comes in: the highlights are so bright that they start to look a bit blown out in places, with some of the detail that was visible on the Blu-ray getting lost. Now, there’s no question that this is how the filmmakers wanted the 4K UHD image to look, and it’s a small issue compared to the overall quality of that image. But it should be noted and it is the only thing that prevents me from giving the picture a A +. It’s still very, very good.
The audio is included in a new English Dolby Atmos mix which is by no means flashy, but is beautifully mixed. Clarity is excellent, with full sound quality and firm bass. The scene is largely focused on the front, but it is quite wide, with Morricone’s score presented with exceptional fidelity. The use of surround and height channels is restricted, but very light atmospheres are almost constant. There are a lot of small sound details and sound effects that complement the hemispherical immersion. As officers run out of their Washington office building and cross the street to Lafayette Square, you can hear traffic swirling all around. Shots pack a lot of punch. The mix never looks dated, but it never looks modern either – it’s just naturalistic and very enjoyable. Additional audio options include English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, which preserves the original theatrical sound experiences, as well as 5.1 DTS-HD MA in French, German, Italian, Japanese and Castilian Spanish, 5.1 Dolby Digital in Portuguese, Russian, Latin and Thai Spanish, and 2.0 mono Dolby Digital in Hungarian. Optional subtitles are available in English, SDH English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Castilian Spanish, Latin Spanish , Swedish, and Thai.
Sony’s new 4K drive includes the following special features:
- Audio commentary with Wolfgang Petersen
- The ultimate sacrifice (SD – 22:13)
- Catch the counterfeiters (SD – 5:28)
- Behind the scenes of the secret service (SD – 19:55)
- How did they do it? (SD – 4:58)
- Deleted scenes (SD – 5 scenes – 4:53 in all)
- Trailer (HD – 1:20)
All these elements are carried over from the original 2001 Special edition DVD release, which was produced by our old friend JM Kenny, with the exception of the trailer (which was just added for this release). The commentary actually features both Petersen and Kenny, the latter serving as a sort of sounding board for the director and asking questions every now and then. It’s good listening. The rest of the extras are quite simple but interesting, all except the SD teaser. Behind the scenes of the secret service was originally produced by Showtime to promote the theatrical release of the film. Note that there is no remastered Blu-ray copy of the movie in this package, so you may want to keep the 2008 BD if you have it. There is, however, a digital copy code on a paper insert.
In the crosshairs isn’t filled with eye candy, or thrilling action, but it’s still an interesting and compelling drama. While some parts of its story have aged less well than others, the film still holds up remarkably well. And thanks to Sony’s new 4K UHD version, the movie just never looked better. This version comes highly recommended for fans, and highly recommended for 4K enthusiasts who enjoy beautiful pre-digital catalog movie remasters. Hoping Sony publishes Wolfgang Petersen Das Botte in 4K with an improved Atmos sound mix as well. Because this would be a hell of a thing.
– Bill Hunt