Fear Lives on ARLINGTON ROAD
Sometimes it’s difficult to love thy neighbor. Take Michael Faraday (Jeff Bridges), for instance. He believes the people living across the street from him on Arlington Road are terrorists. But they look like a perfectly normal American middle-class family. Is Faraday paranoid?
Perhaps. After all, he has become obsessed with the culture of right wing groups ever since his wife, an FBI agent, was killed in a shoot-out with one of them. And, he teaches a course about terrorism for George Washington University. That’s enough to make anyone a little suspicious of everyone and everything.
Faraday’s neighbors, Oliver and Cheryl Lang (Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack) appear harmless enough, but are they really what they seem? After discovering that Oliver has changed his name, Faraday becomes even more protective of his son when he wants to spend time with the Langs.
Bridges, last seen in The Big Lebowski, makes a highly sympathetic Everyman character. The four-time Oscar nominee describes Arlington Road as “a contemporary thriller dealing with just how far you will go to protect or take revenge for the sake of a loved one.” Co-star Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption) adds that it is a story about trust. “Who do you trust? Who is to blame for things that happen in our lives? Is it ourselves?” First-time screenwriter Ehren Kruger, winner of a special fellowship from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for this script, claims he wanted to write “a thriller that wasn’t about police officers and thieves, but about ordinary people in an ordinary situation who get enmeshed in something that’s much greater than they’re used to.”
While the twists and turns of Arlington Road’s complex plot cause some confusion, performances by Bridges, Robbins, Cusack, and Hope Davis (as Faraday’s girlfriend) are first-rate. It’s good to see Oscar winner Cusack (In and Out) take on a more serious role than usual. Always marvelous in her comic portrayals, she shows a similar talent for dramatic work in this film. Although Davis (The Daytrippers) needs additional screen time to give depth to her character, she excels in her few scenes. Bridges and Robbins generate considerable tension as they play cat and mouse with each other.
But something is lacking here. Director Mark Pellington (Going All The Way) paces the movie too slowly in certain parts and too jumpy in others. One can’t help wondering what the great Alfred Hitchcock would have done with this suspenseful tale. Still, fine work by talented actors and a clever surprise ending make Arlington Road worth the price of admission.
(Released by Screen Gems and rated “R” for violence, tense situations, and strong language.)