1999; Rated R; 117 Minutes
Jeff Bridges: Michael Faraday
Tim Robbins: Oliver Lang
Joan Cusack: Cheryl Lang
Hope Davis: Brooke Wolfe
Robert Gossett: FBI Agent Whit Carver
Mason Gamble: Brady Lang
Produced by Ellen Dux, Tom Gorai, Jean Higgins, Judd
Malkin, James McQuaide, Tom Rosenberg, Ed Ross, Marc Samuelson,
Peter Samuelson, Sigurjon Sighvatsson, Ted Tannebaum, and
Richard Wright; Directed by Mark Pellington; Screenwritten
by Ehren Kruger
by DAVID KEYES
Road" is a movie so filled with moronic intentions and illogical
ideas that, had there been any truth to them, might have
led audiences to believe that we live in the Twilight Zone.
In demanding us to comprehend every absurd plot twist and
coincidence, the film teeters on the brink of being one
of the worst of the year far too often. It is void of intelligence,
sufficient reasoning, convincing characters, and total believability.
Yet within the walls of this very theater, most of the viewers
appeared to be enjoying themselves; occasionally, however,
there were one or two observers who would step out of the
room and never return. They were the lucky ones.
plot carries with it a stench from the old setup of "Apt
Pupil," in which the main character is involved in a lecture
on manmade disaster, only to realize that one of his own
neighbors knows more about it than one might imagine. Instead
of the holocaust, what we have here is terrorism: a field
that is in itself a disaster waiting to happen. Not surprisingly,
it has already been the root subject of countless studio
movies, including last year's "The Siege," and even "True
Lies," the multi-million Schwarzenegger blockbuster that
should have been named "How To Succeed In Terrorism Without
Even Trying." Each film is like watching a bomb tick up
to the last second, ending with an explosion of disastrous
effects. Alas, too, like a bomb, the sight is not always
pretty, and what follows the buildup in "Arlington Road"
is a series of disasters, coincidences, twists and persuasions
that flout every ounce of logic, and should have never happened
in the first place. Once you take them into account, you
slowly come to the realization that the rest of the plot
doesn't make much sense, either. So what are we left with
by the end of this churlish mess? A big empty hole that
could have easily been prevented.
Bridges plays Professor Michael Faraday, the man in question,
who teaches a course on terrorism to the students of his
history class at George Washington University in Virginia.
The subject is not easy for Faraday, however, since he recently
lost his own wife to an anti-terrorism mission. Still, he
survives in the suburbs with his son, Grant (Spencer Treat
Clark) and his new girlfriend, Brooke (Hope Davis).
day when driving home, he comes across a young boy, about
Grant's age, who has been severely hurt in a freak accident
with fireworks. He is immediately taken to the hospital,
where Faraday learns that the boy belongs to new neighbors
of his from across the street, Oliver and Cheryl Lang, played
by Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack. The occurrence brings the
neighbors together, eventually as close friends. But it's
only a matter of time when we, and Michael, realize that
Oliver has a thing for explosives and is involved greatly
in the act of terrorism.
script, naturally, depends on the trust of the audience
in order to come across effectively. Such trust must be
earned, however, and not be forced upon the viewer. The
movie fails in this way because none of the situations and/or
occurrences have a smidgen of believability to them. For
the benefit of the whole setup, however, I'm willing to
accept the fact that this premise is possible in real life.
I believe, truthfully, that people such as Oliver Lang can
live among us without our knowledge. Heck, if child molesters,
serial killers and basket cases can, why not terrorists?
none of this seems to matter by the time the movie reaches
its last hour. A reasonably intelligent script might have
continued with the promising premise on a note of believability
or understanding, but "Arlington Road" prefers to deal out
apparatus after apparatus. The whole use of contrivance
destroys any appreciation or understanding we might have
felt for these characters or situations when they first
began. Never before have I seen such a wretched attempt
at manipulating audiences.
movie was directed by Mark Pellington and written by Ehrin
Kruger, who I'm sure have incredible talent, but are relatively
unknown on the movie scene currently, and look to stay that
way after this fiasco. Unlike director Pellington, however,
Kruger has a wonderful opportunity to put himself on the
map this year with a much anticipated motion picture. It's
called "Scream 3." A shame it is that his latest effort
looks as if it needs an opening narration by Rod Serling.
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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