Just how well do we know our neighbours? Is a psychopathic
murderer lurking in the house just across the road? David Lynch often
provides a shattering and unsettling exploration of the bizarre and
sleazy underbelly that lies beyond the comfortable images of the
quaint picket fences and neatly maintained housing lots of suburbia.
Joe Dante brought a more comic approach to the theme with his black
comedy the 'Burbs.
Arlington Road takes this basic theme and neatly marries it
with a touch of the paranoia and cynicism that shaped the best
political thrillers of the '70's, such as The Parallax View and All
The President's Men, etc. Overtones of both the Oklahoma City and
World Trade Towers bombings also permeate this taut, tense and topical
thriller exploring domestic terrorism in the US.
Jeff Bridges delivers his usual solid performance as Michael
Faraday, a lecturer at George Washington University, who is still
coming to terms with the death of his wife, an FBI agent who was
killed three years ago during a botched raid on a suspected terrorist
encampment. Obsessed with the nature of terrorism as a political
tool, the embittered Faraday lectures on the topic as part of his
popular course on American history.
One day while returning home to his quiet suburban street he
comes across a teenage boy staggering down the road, with his arm
badly burnt. Michael rushes the bleeding and dazed boy to hospital
for treatment. There he meets the boy's concerned parents, Oliver and
Cheryl Lange (Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack), who happen to be his new
neighbours. They explain that the boy's arm was injured while playing
with fireworks in the park with some friends.
Michael and the Langes become friends, but Michael soon grows
suspicious of Oliver. His belief that Oliver is lying and hiding
something leads Michael to an obsessive search into his neighbour's
past. As he races against time to prove that his neighbour is
actually a terrorist with an advanced degree in explosives, most of
his acquaintances think that the strain is beginning to take its toll.
Is Michael right, or have recent tragic events jaded his perspective?
Bridges brings an intense, wary and highly strung neurotic
edge to his performance. Robbins delivers a superbly malevolent
performance as Oliver, while Cusack is icily creepy as his wife.
This chilling paranoid thriller from writer Ehren Kruger and
director Mark Pellington efficiently taps into the mind set of most
ordinary Americans, who prefer the comfort of believing in the
officially promulgated theories of lone gunmen and lone terrorist
bombers rather than shadowy high level conspiracies. Pellington, a
former director of rock videos who made his feature debut with the
disappointing '50's coming of age tale Going All The Way, effectively
tightens the suspense as the film races towards its surprising climax.
Arlington Road doesn't always follow a nicely formulaic path,
and Pellington and Kruger manage to pack in a couple of surprising
twists. Pellington demonstrates a dazzling visual style that
effectively captures Faraday's increasingly compulsive behaviour, and
bring a nicely neurotic edge to the film.
Arlington Road is a gripping, sweaty palms, edge of the seat
Copyright © 2000 Greg King