June 11, 2006

DVD Review: Firewall

I saw this back when it was in theaters and I thought it was moderately enjoyable. There was nothing to really hang onto, and the plot moves along in a straightforward manner. Now that I have watched it on DVD, I think even less of the movie.

I am not saying that Firewall is a bad movie, it is just such a non-event that once it has finished, your involvement with it is over. This is not the kind of film that will linger in your brain for very long afterwards. For Harrison Ford, it is a step up from Hollywood Homicide, but it is not a return to the heyday of Ford adventures that we would have liked.

Ford plays Jack Stanfield as the head of security at a small bank. He is a relatively ordinary man, he does his job well, is respected by his peers and has a loving family providing support. He, and his family, are targeted by Bill Cox, played by Paul Bettany. Cox leads a home invasion of the Stanfield household, taking Jacks wife and two children hostage as a means of getting Jack to cooperate in an elaborate plot to rob a bank electronically.

There are some interesting concepts in the movie, but nothing really seemed to dig all that deep. I like the idea of identity theft, but it has yet to be done well, at least not that I have yet seen (the other one that springs to mind is The Net). Firewall scratches the surface of this, as it is used to initiate the contact with Ford's character and springboard into the bank robbery. Unfortunately, that is as far as the identity theft concept goes. There is also the home invasion angle which plays out well as a plot device, but doesn't stand up to something like last year's Hostage, which is a wonderful surprise of a movie, centering on a home invasion.

The plot involves a criminal mastermind seeking to rob a bank by using their security system designer to go beyond the firewall to steal the money electronically. No need to deal with cracking safe codes and physically entering the bank when it can all be done with some simple keystrokes. Unfortunately, they picked the wrong man to do the deed for them. The invasion of his home, kidnapping of his family, and the attempt to undo all that he had worked towards for his career all worked towards bringing out the hidden side of himself, a determined and ingenius man just waiting to get out and show what he can do.

The problems lie in the casting of Ford as the lead. It is time to accept that he is getting a little old for the big action, not to mention looking more like a grandfather to his character's children. That isn't to say that he doesn't have a lot to offer, or that his acting is being diminished, it is just that it may be time to transition to the next stage of his career. Plus, the story itself never really seems to take off. I had been led to believe that their would be more about the identity theft, and that turned out to go nowhere.

One shining point is Paul Bettany, I am really coming to enjoy his work and it seems as if he is getting more and more opportunities. He really brings a genuine menace to the role of Cox, and is the most convincing part of this movie. I look forward to future work from him. There is also Mary Lyn Rajskub as Ford's assistant, she has a lively presence as she translates her Chloe character from 24 to the big screen.

Richard Loncraine directed, who also directed Bettany in Wimbledon. He does a workman-like job with this. There is no real standout visual style, but all of the action is captured in a competent manner. Wimbledon seems much more suited to his abilities.

Video. The transfer looks decent, nothing spectacular and with no glaring problems. It is presented in its original aspect ratio and anamorphically enhanced. Blacks are good, colors are defined yet lack any real punch.

Audio. The sound is Dolby Digital 5.1 and it sounds pretty good. Like the video, it does a good job without blowing you away.

Extras. Rather slim in the extras department.
-Firewall Decoded: A conversation with Harrison Ford and Richard Loncraine. I felt a little put off by this 17 minute featurette. Listening to it would make you feel that Ford wrote the script and new exactly what spots to hit while filming. I don't know, I just didn't really like the feel of this talk.
-Firewall: Writing a Thriller. This is a brief 3 minute conversation with the writer, Joe Forte, and how he had to do a lot of research while writing it and aolso taking us into his garage, aka his writing room..

Bottomline. Eh, worth a rental, but that's about it. It will quickly slip from your mind after you see it. It is not bad filmmaking, it is just generic. Ford, while not really right for the role, is still a steady presence on the screen, he is always entertaining on some level. Anyway, this is just a mediocre fluff piece.

Very Mild Recommendation.
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