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Should you trust your neighbour?
Arlington Road (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
Arlington Road (DVD)
Advantages: Great thriller
Disadvantages: Some plot-holes
Jeff Bridges plays Michael Faraday, in what I think is one of his best roles. Faraday is a University Professor, and lost his FBI wife three years before when she was working on a case. He now has a girlfriend and is trying hard to move ahead with his life, but his nine year old son is still struggling with the loss of his mother. Bridges gives a really good performance as a man still grieving, and desperate at all costs to protect his son from anything and everything. Once Faraday realises that his son may be in danger, he is terrified, and it is here that Bridges really comes into his own. There are some holes in the plot that made me question how Faraday could have behaved in the way he did, but Bridges managed to make it all seem feasible - it was only afterwards that I questioned some of his actions.
Tim Robbins is also great as Oliver Lang. Robbins is an an actor who interests me. He is clearly a highly talented actor - I particularly rate his performances in Mystic River and The Shawshank Redemption - and yet I never recognise him when I see him in a new film role. I think he just has that 'everyday man' look about him - there is nothing outstanding in the way that he looks. This is an advantage though, because this means that he is judged on his acting and not on his looks - often I think actors are judged on their cuteness rather than on their talent. As Lang, he really does seem to be a pleasant, ordinary man, although as time goes on, his character does change drastically. Again, Robbins handles this very well and really put the fear of God into me.
I should also mention Joan Cusack, who plays Cheryl Lang. Like Robbins, she is a bit of an 'everyday woman' in that I rarely recognise her to begin with. This isn't one of her best roles, simply because she doesn't have all that much screen-time, and when she does, she acts rather like a Stepford Wife - always smiling and looking like the perfect housewife, wife and mother. However, she did scare me - there was something deeply unsettling about the way that she always looked so bright and breezy.
As with many thriller action films, there is a tendency to fill the film with as much action as possible, while glossing over salient facts that we need to fully understand what is going on. Faraday's suspicion of Lang, for example, seems grossly over the top, even though it is explained away because Faraday concentrates on terrorism in his job. Then there are a number of coincidences - Faraday's girlfriend's sudden decision to follow Lang, for example, that just seem too good to be true. Nevertheless, I found myself glued to the screen from start to finish - even though I had seen the film before - so the director and actors were most certainly doing something right.
There is a great feeling of edginess throughout the film and it is never quite clear what is going to happen next. And in fact, there is a real twist in the tale at the end that I'd forgotten about, which left me with a strong feeling that this isn't a film I am going to forget easily. It was released in 1999, which is more or less when I saw it, but I think after the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks, it has a more powerful impact. How many of us really know who is living next door or across the road after all? As we now know, terrorists don't fit into a particular category and they don't have terrorist written all over their faces.
As far as the cinematography goes, there is little of any value to say. This is very much a character-driven film, so it is just as well that the lead performances are so strong. The action scenes are done well - there is plenty of atmosphere - and it is clear that the film's budget wasn't too basic, but there are no clever camera angles or attempts on the part of director Mark Pellington to do anything but tell the story as competently as possible. That is fine though - he manages to create exactly the right sort of atmosphere for such a film and I appreciated that more than any extraneous visual beauty could have provided. There is a certain amount of violence, and scenes of dead bodies, so it probably isn't appropriate for most children - there is a rating of 15. However, the gore element is kept down, so it isn't anywhere near as bad as it could have been.
Disappointingly, there are no extras to speak off - just a trailer for the film. I would have liked an insight into the background behind the film, and some interviews with the actors would have been appreciated too.
I really enjoyed watching this film again. It is a real edge of the seat thriller, something that I rarely find coming out of Hollywood any more. It isn't without its flaws, but the acting is strong enough to cover them up most of the time. If you haven't yet seen it, then you really should - it is a film that is guaranteed to keep you intrigued until the credits roll. Recommended to anyone who enjoys a good thriller.
The DVD is available from play.com for £3.99.
Running time: 117 minutes
Summary: Kept me on the edge of my seat!