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Arlington Road

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Arlington Road

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins
Director: Mark Pellington
Rated: R
RunTime: 119 Minutes
Release Date: July 1999
Genres: Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Joan Cusack, Hope Davis, Mason Gamble

Review by Greg King
4 stars out of 4

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 thriller!

Copyright 2000 Greg King

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