Widower Michael Faraday raises his young son and teaches a univeristy class on American militia, separatist and terrorist groups. His fascination with this subject has blossomed into an obsession since bungled orders cost his wife – an FBI agent – her life. Faraday is driving home one day when he spots a young boy with a horribly burned and bleeding hand. He drives the boy to the hospital and discovers that the child’s parents are his neighbors across the street – a family to whom he has never introduced himself. His neighbor, Oliver Lang, is grateful to Faraday, and the two become fast friends (as do their sons). But Faraday, who has become accustomed to subjecting everyone and everything he knows to extreme scrutiny, is a little unsettled by some of Oliver’s off-the-cuff remarks. Faraday begins to suspect that Oliver is not what he seems…and when he finds that “Oliver Lang” is the name of a dead man from his neighbor’s home town, it begins to appear as though his suspicions aren’t as groundless as everyone tells him they are.
screenplay by Ehren Kruger
story by Ehren Kruger
directed by Mark Pellington
music by Angelo Badalamenti and tomandandy
Cast: 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), Spencer Treat Clark (Grant Faraday), Stanley Anderson (Dr. Archer Scobee), Viviane Vives (Nurse), Lee Stringer (Orderly), Darryl Cox (Troopmaster), Loyd Catlett (Delivery Man), Sid Hillman (Phone Technician), Auden Thornton (Hannah Lang), Mary Ashleigh Green (Daphne Lang), Jennie Tooley (Ponytail Girl), Grant Garrison (Student Kemp), Naya Castinado (O’Neill), Laura Poe (Leah Faraday), Christopher Dahlberg (Buckley), Gabriel Folse (Merks), Hunter Burkes (Hutch Parsons), Diane Peterson (Ma Parsons), Josh Ridgway (18-year-old Parsons), Hans Stroble (16-year-old Parsons), Michelle Du Bois (Parsons Girl), Steve Ottesen (TV Reporter #2), Harris Mackenzie (TV Reporter #3), John Hussey (Accident Detective), Charles Sanders (Camp Official), Todd Terry (2nd Camp Official), Gina Santori (Party Girl/Student), Denver Williams (FBI Guard #1 ), Willie Dirden (FBI Guard #2), Paul Pender (FBI Van Agent), Charlie Webb (FBI Van Agent #2), Billy D. Washington (FBI Agent #3), Cindy Hom (TV Reporter #4), Dave Allen Clark (TV Reporter #5), Ken Manelis (Charles Bell), Deborah Swanson (Bomb Site Reporter), Homer Jon Young (Student)
LogBook entry and review by Earl Green
Review: This supremely creepy thriller explores the notion that your neighbor could be anyone or anything. Arlington Road swings the pendulum relentlessly from “he’s on to something, they are suspicious” to “naaaahh, he’s paranoid.” The script is masterfully executed, and Jeff Bridges and Tim Robbins turn in a couple of excellent performances, though their acting starts to go off the deep end about three quarters of the way through the film (but so does the directing, so I’m not blaming the actors for this one). Bridges and Robbins have done enough good work in the past that I’m sure their instincts would’ve served the movie better than the over-the-top, almost drunkenly-lurching style that takes over not long before the film’s climax.
Ah yes…the directing. Mark Pellington had an interesting vision with this film. Sometimes the bizarro camera work does the story some big favors, but in other places, especially toward the end of the movie, things start to bury the needle on the weird-o-meter. The camera work and lighting give the last 25-30 minutes of Arlington Road the feeling of someone else’s acid trip, confined to celluloid. It’s still effective, but when the film repeatedly drops into slow motion and the lights start to strobe the action into a myriad of brief freeze-frames, one begins to wonder if this is an example of style superceding substance.
Joan Cusack is incredibly creepy as Lang’s wife, who turns out to be just as involved as he is in his covert activities. Cusack has long been one of my favorite actresses, and for some strange and nerdly reason I’ve always thought she was actually kind of hot…but here, she’s just plain disturbing.
Kudos go to the stunt performers and the pyro crew. Their work makes the end of the film what it is. The incredibly realistic car collision with a bus was so real I cringed when it happened, and as for the pyro work…well, that would be giving away too much.
Angelo Badalamenti (of Twin Peaks fame) turns in a dark musical score, though at times – particulary in scenes of great tension – it almost sounds like he plugged in the drum beat from Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”. Not that it doesn’t fit the scenes in which it’s heard, but the resemblance to that aforementioned NIN tune is uncanny.
I truly admire the makers of Arlington Road for sticking to their guns and creating an ending to the movie which doesn’t cling slavishly to the notion that every movie has to end with Bruce Willis effortlessly dispatching vast numbers of terrorists whilst losing his shirt and exposing his muscular upper torso. It’s an ending that would have destroyed this movie, partly because Bruce Willis wasn’t even in it, but mainly because the ending of the movie justifies everything else in the film, and brings some truly terrifying thoughts to the viewer’s mind: could this really be happening in America today?
As for the answer to that question, I leave it to your imagination. Watch… and worry.