ARLINGTON ROAD (1999) ***1/2
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Hope Davis, Mason Gamble, and Robert Gossett Director: Mark Pellington 117 minutes Rated R (for intense violent content and some language)
By Blake French:
"Arlington Road" is this year's "Breakdown." It's filled to the rim with hard core, high octane tension and suspense-so much that it is almost hard to catch your breath throughout the movie's running period. Fueled with first rate performances and a script that is understandable and clear, this may be one of the best thrillers.
The movie starts off with a boy, named Brady Lang, who stumbles down Arlington Rd. with blood dripping from his body. Jeff Bridges, who plays Michael Faraday, a single professor who teachers a course on terrorism at a local university, observes this terrified and injured child from inside his car as he drives by. After realizing the nature of his wounds, he dashes out of his car to help. Michael rushes Brady to the nearest hospital, in result he saves his life and meets some people whom he will soon wish he would have never laid eyes on.
Wow. What an exhilarating opening scene. While it may be a little over the top, it does provide the setup needed for such the brutal, bloodthirsty film this really is. It is not a film for younger viewers, and I would check into it some more if you're faint of heart or squeamish in any way. This movie takes itself seriously for every second of the way, unlike many other "scary" movies out there today.
Brady Lang belongs to a new family down the block from the Faraday's, consisting of Oliver, the friendly dad, Cheryl, almost eccentric wife, and their children, who are very bizarre acting. Quiet and suspicious, almost as if they are holding something back. When Michael and his girlfriend, Brooke, meet the Lang's, they introduce them to his son, ask them over for dinner sometime, and look around their new house. Oliver is an architect currently working on a shopping mall somewhere out of town. But wait! When Michael was over there last he saw the blueprint to his "so called" mall, and knows that this is no mall he his constructing.
This makes Michael very wearily of his neighbors, especially when he beholds Oliver's mail and discovers that there may have been a name change sometime ago in Lang's past. He brings these things to the attention to Brooke, only to have her call him paranoid and that his occupation is getting to his head. That is also what his old buddy, FBI Agent Whit Carver, says to him when Michael asks him to do a background check on Oliver.
Things really heat up when Michael discovers the truth behind his friendly neighbor's secret identity. Movie posters and newspaper ads suggest it. Previews and reviews reveal it, and by the time the film takes an unexpected turn in the third act, the only one suspecting Oliver Lang to be just an ordinary person is Michael.
"Arlington Road" is smart enough to develop Jeff Bridge's character with feelings, flashbacks and an emotional past, rather than showing us the details of his past marriage. It is also smart enough not to develop a romantic subplot between Michael and Brooke, beyond the suggestions and interest in each other. It stays on track every inch of the way; all the scenes further the plot a little bit at a time. Leading us with a perfectly structured, flawlessly planned out thriller.
The performance by Jeff Bridges is so great and certainly Oscar worthy we actually buy into the paranoia plot and end up caring about him so much this movie's ending actually hurts to watch. It ruins the entire production. The last twenty minutes of this movie arrant just unbelievable, but the closing scene features a sense of injustice, unfairness, and is unsettling beyond comprehension. All of this and I still have not revealed the actually end to you, and will not. But I hated it, and think the majority of an audience will join me in saying as the closing credits arouse on screen their jaw dropped off their face and hit the floor.
However, I do think the film is unconventional because of the thematic structure it used for its closing and subject madder. If it would have concluded in a predictable, usual fashioned people would complain about that too. It proves how much we care about the characters. And at the same time allows us to realize that this film deserved better, somewhere down the road, it deserved to be much better.
Action / Crime / Drama / Thriller
Action / Crime / Drama / Thriller
In suburban Reston, Virginia, George Washington University American History professor Michael Faraday is still mourning the death of his wife, FBI agent Leah Faraday, after three years. His inside knowledge of the agency colors what he teaches in his classes. Although on good terms with Leah's ex-partner, Whit Carver, and the agency in general, Michael wants the agency at least to acknowledge their responsibility in her death in the line of duty. Michael is moving on with his personal life, he being in a serious relationship with his former teaching assistant Brooke Wolfe. Although he likes Brooke, Michael and Leah's nine year old son, Grant Faraday, may not yet be quite ready for Brooke to be a permanent part of their lives. It is only in helping adolescent Brady Lang who he sees in medical distress that Michael meets his new neighbors, Oliver and Cheryl Lang, Brady's parents. In the process, Michael and Brooke becomes friends with the Langs, as Grant and Brady become friends. ...
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