November 3, 2011

Reviews in Retrograde: Arlington Road

Critical Outcast isn't my first attempt at a website, I had a few stutter steps in the late 1990's and early 2000's. These attempts generated a whole bunch of poorly written, often very short and spoilerific reviews. I recently stumbled upon them in my archives and thought you may be interested in seeing some of these early attempts at writing. They are as they were then, I make no apologies for how bad or how short they are. Feel free to have at them with reckless abandon! I present to you: Reviews in Retrograde.

Michael Faraday is a recently widowed college history professor living alone with his ten-year-old son Grant in the suburbs of Washington, DC. The death of Michael's wife Leah, an FBI agent killed in the line of duty, continues to haunt both father and son. Michael and Grant are soon befriended by the Langs, a vivacious, All-American family new to the neighborhood. The parents, Oliver and Cheryl Lang, go out of their way to draw Michael into their lives. Soon, Grant and young Brody Lang become inseparable friends. The Faradays' long period of mourning seems finally to be over. As the two families become closer, Michael begins to have misgivings about the gregarious Oliver. After catching Oliver in a few insignificant lies, the more Michael learns about Oliver, the more his uneasiness grows. With Grant spending more and more time at the Langs, Michael decides to check into the background of his neighbors. What he discovers deepens the mystery, arousing suspicions that shake Michael to the core of his existence. The Langs are definitely not who they claim to be; but who are they? Why have they come to Washington, DC?

Amazing movie. The movie was powerful and kept me on the edge of my seat. The concept behind the movie is frightening in and of itself. Domestic terrorism is a hot button topic, what with the recent incidents such as Oklahoma City and the Olympics in Atlanta. The subject is dealt with very well here and it is effective in portraying the reality of the fear.

We follow the story of a widowed professor, his wife was killed in a botched FBI operation. He teaches a class on domestic terrorism, and it is beginning to consume his life. He has new neighbors, and they are perfect, but maybe a little too perfect. We watch Bridges delve into this man's past and he finds something that scares him. The characters are portrayed with a realism that really strikes home, a little bit of it seems contrived, but some points had to be there in order to make this story works on the many levels that it does.

The acting is superb, Jeff Bridges brings a real down to earth feel. A nice guy just getting over the death of his wife and raising a young son. We watch as falls deeper into the paranoia that is consuming him. Bridges makes you care about the character, that he could be you. Tim Robbins is also superb, bringing that nice guy neighbor image to the surface, but there is a certain menace there as well. He plays the character that seems superficial and you can see that there is a more dangerous layer bubbling underneath. Joan Cusack plays the dutiful wife, always popping up when you least expect her to and scare the daylights out of you.

The whole idea of domestic terrorism is frightening, I mean this is America, right? The last place you would expect terrorist acts to occur. The planning that the characters take to commit and conceal the act is frightening. The film kept me on the edge of my seat leading up to one of the best endings ever from a Hollywood release. Mark Pennington does a fanatstic job at pacing the film, keeping it going and lively to hold your attention. The tension slowly builds and releases only to build up more, very well crafted cinema.

A special mention must be made of Angelo Badalamenti. His score is riveting, playing off each scene and increasing the tension. One of the most effective film scores of recent years.

Overall a tense film with plenty of suspense to go around, combined with a sure to shock ending that will leave you thinking about the possibilities. Strong Recommendation to see.

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