A-Ron’s Film Rewind Presents: “We’re Having A Party. You’re More Than Welcome To Stay”. A 20th Anniversary Celebration Of The Best Film You Probably Missed. Jeff Bridges & Tim Robbins Go Head To Head In Director Mark Pellington’s Taut, Smart, Riveting & Edgy Thriller “Arlington Road”.
“Arlington Road” is underrated, unappreciated and one of the best films you’ve probably never seen or missed. It’s an interesting thriller about terrorism because if it were made today you’d see the Tim Robbins character played by someone Middle Eastern, casting immigrants and those outside the North American culture as the terrorists. Released two years before the attacks on 9/11, before action films and thrillers about terrorism was looked at and depicted in a different light.
“Arlington Road” is the second feature from music video director turned big screen director Mark Pellington. While “Arlington Road” is his best work, his third feature “The Mothman Prophecies” is worth checking out. This July 9th is the 20th anniversary of “Arlington Road”, a thriller where the term paranoid thriller is one that fits easily with Pellington’s film, the screenplay by Ehren Kruger (“Transformers”) has the paranoia really play on the emotions.
Bridges’ character of Michael Faraday devolves over the course of the two hour run time, into a paranoid man whose feeling of conspiracy, that a terrorist is living next door to him in his neighbourhood. Pellington puts us in the perspective of Bridges the whole time, yet we also see other events and actions surrounding his situation; we try to piece together that there’s something not quite right with his neighbours, particularly just before the last forty minutes starts to roll.
Tim Robbins (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Players”) and Joan Cusack (“In & Out,” “Working Girl”) are a hoot to watch. Perfectly playing the apparently benign but certainly creepy and inevitably malevolent neighbors, Robbins and Cusack are great and keep you guessing if they are who Bridges suspects them to be. The acting all around is spectacular, particularly on the part of Bridges. Bridges pours a lot into his performance as he usually does.
What’s most impressive is the screenplay by Ehren Kruger. He understands how pacing in a thriller like this, which keeps us guessing to a certain point then replaces any of that suspense with action and plenty of tension, is an important key. And from the moment Faraday (Bridges) starts to really catch onto a possible terrorist plot, there’s a frenzied, chaotic feel to many scenes. Pellington’s film gets more and more tense as Faraday is trying to beat the clock, from terrorists that are about to unleash a bomb on the city.
When you consider the finale it’s not only one of the best endings, it’s intensely executed making us feel frustration and anger; everything a good film is supposed to do emotionally. Not many films have the guts to take it that far. Instead of us finding a happier, more pleasant ending, “Arlington Road” isn’t afraid to take us into the depths of terrorism, striking us with its shocking final moments.
Pellington and writer Ehren Kruger are able to get where many other films aren’t willing to go to the lengths that “Arlington Road” does. It’s haunting, devastating, and it carries a strong message. “Arlington Road” gives us the terrorism plot, without relying on a religious or political angle, or casting a certain race as the perpetrators of terrorism. The conclusion doesn’t dawn on the audience until a millisecond before it does on the main character.
The pacing keeps us glued, while throwing us off our guard during certain moments. Regardless, we go chugging along with Bridges as he spirals into an obsessive loophole of paranoia, guilt, and fear. It sucks you in and never lets go until the last frame. It possesses a stunning ending that’s a real gut puncher, one that will leave you needing a second viewing to catch all of its smartly executed setup. “Arlington Road” is an extremely edgy and smart thriller that offers no clear-cut heroes or villains. Expertly filmed from a solid screenplay, “Arlington Road” is a mystery-laden thriller, without flaws. After twenty years, it’s still a perfect film. If you’ve never seen it then download it or order it, but you don’t want to go on without seeing it.