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Overall Rating

Awesome: 14.66%
Worth A Look43.1%
Average: 11.21%
Pretty Bad: 16.38%
Total Crap: 14.66%

10 reviews, 56 user ratings

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Arlington Road
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Intriguingly dark, overlooked thriller."
4 stars

Is it possible for a thriller -- any thriller -- to surprise us any more? We go to these things, after all, expecting a certain number of generic twists and turns; there is some comfort (and more than a little boredom) in our knowledge that a thriller will play by the rules, follow the accepted mainstream template.

Increasingly, one has to look outside the studio system. Arlington Road got a nationwide opening and has big-name stars, but notice its distributor: Sony Screen Gems. In other words, this is something of an indie thriller in big-studio sheep's clothing. The movie is both darker and more intimate than you expect.

Arlington Road grabs you from its stressful pre-credits scene, in which history professor Michael Faraday (Jeff Bridges), driving along one afternoon, happens across a boy limping in the middle of the road, dazed and bleeding. The boy, it turns out, had been messing around with a homemade bomb and nearly blew his hand off. Michael scoops the boy up and rushes him to the hospital; he eventually discovers that the kid is one of three children in the happy family of Oliver and Cheryl Lang (Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack), who live just across the street from Michael and his own little boy. Michael anguishes over the idea that he didn't know the name of his neighbors' son, but we sense that Oliver and Cheryl have been unknown to Michael up to this point because they wanted to be unknown.

As it happens, Michael is carrying more than the usual amount of modern American paranoia. His wife, an FBI agent, was killed in a senseless exchange of fire at a remote West Virginia shack; he immerses himself in his courses, where he teaches the history of terrorism and is prone to impassioned rants about the government and their official lies. Jeff Bridges, who could sell snow to Eskimos, lets us see Michael not as a conspiracy nut but as a grieving widower trying to make sense of a world where children are blown to bits in day-care centers. And he's starting to suspect good-buddy neighbor Oliver of plotting to blow up a building.

Sharply directed by Mark Pellington, and written by Ehren Kruger with an ear for banal suburban banter hiding sinister truths, Arlington Road lulls us for a while into thinking it's about the misplaced mistrust of our era. Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack (whose character could have been fleshed out more) don't make the mistake of playing Oliver and Cheryl as "Hi honey, I'm home" cartoons. They are legitimately likable people, and we want to believe Oliver when, feeling hurt and insulted, he confronts Michael about the snooping he's been doing. We begin to wonder if Michael is merely a good man deranged by loss and obsessed with the spectre of terrorism in every house, at every backyard barbecue.

But the movie has a few curves in store for us, leading to a regrettable car chase that's a little too drawn out. Yet even the car chase, as I look back on it, has come to seem fairly subversive. A car chase is usually the appetizer before the main course, the standard climax in which the hero confronts the villain and blows him away. As Michael points out to his class, we need a narrative -- both in movies and in our daily news -- in which only one loner is responsible for an atrocity, and once he dies, his evil dies with him. Let's just say Arlington Road isn't that narrative.

With its big-name stars and its fender-crunching pre-climax, the movie lulls you into a false sense of security; just when you think you've grasped it, it blows up in your hand.

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originally posted: 12/30/06 14:10:35
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User Comments

9/12/17 morris campbell effective but routine 4 stars
3/16/15 Anne Could be a 5 star if less melodramatic. Dynamite ending, relevant today! 4 stars
11/03/14 Dan Worst ending ive seen in a while! While the movie was ok, the ending ruined it. 2 stars
8/29/08 Shaun Wallner boring! couldnt watch the whole thing. 1 stars
9/21/07 amy i didnt understand realy probably becasue i missed some of it 3 stars
9/11/07 juice75 love the movie 5 stars
5/29/07 action movie fan great moive spies next door great thrills and action one of the best of ,99 5 stars
10/01/05 Adam Good acting but story a little weak in parts, ending is a bitch 4 stars
2/05/05 Jeff Anderson Tim Robbins' chilling, understated performance & Mark Pellington's stylish direction ROCK!! 5 stars
2/25/04 LIAM JACKSON Robbins' seemingly innocent neighbour hiding murderous intentions was chilling 5 stars
4/08/03 Mystique a great tim robbins 4 stars
3/03/03 Jack Sommersby Full-throttle, mesmerizing thriller. Bridges' and Pellington's work are outstanding. 4 stars
8/14/02 Ted V. stylishly creepy, Tim Robbins' acting was great 5 stars
8/01/02 Charles Tatum Seriously flawed story 1 stars
7/27/02 I Can't Swim Over-rated trash to give those paranoid among us another hive 2 stars
6/06/02 I'm in (L) with a Jedi good storyline, the ending is very unfortunate....all the actors do a great job... 4 stars
2/05/02 Aiken Drum These where the acts of just one man. I feel safe now. 5 stars
1/22/02 Mad Max FU, Bill head! 4 stars
9/15/01 palaboy after witnessing the events that happened in DC&NYC, u have got to see this movie! 5 stars
5/23/01 Bada Bing Crosby Fast forward to the last 20mins, that's the only part worth seeing at all 4 stars
5/03/01 Bueller The ending SUCKED! In the movies, all villans should die. Especially over the top villans! 2 stars
4/09/01 ChErRyRiPe Very excellent thriller which I enjoyed watching it over and over again! 5 stars
3/08/01 sanja I love to see the main role dead 4 stars
1/09/01 Sully Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Loved it. Disregard the moronic comments below. 5 stars
11/22/00 The Bill Head I would rather gargle pieces of glass mixed in with mutated baby chuncks than see it again! 1 stars
2/12/00 Richard Wright Over-the-top acting, an implausible plot... but gotta say, LOVE that ending! 3 stars
12/10/99 Starla Bad. Very disjointed and apparently pointless. The ending was a cop-out. 2 stars
12/10/99 JonnyAngel Worked for me. 4 stars
12/10/99 stuart buxton While unevenly paced, Arlington Rd remains one of the more chilling releases of the year. 4 stars
12/05/99 Eric S. Despite implausibilities, Jeff Bridges' performance and the ending make this film work 4 stars
11/20/99 George Nedelchev Intelligent, well-acted, well-shot. 4 stars
11/14/99 Matthew Smith an urban thriller with an ending that you haunt you for days to come 5 stars
11/02/99 Crikkit This movie really makes you think. A must see for Tim Robbins fans. 5 stars
10/30/99 Bozo Hey! Watch that "Yanks" shit! I thought it sucked too! Feel better? 2 stars
9/18/99 RelliK Sick Puppies(That's you, the Yanks) 4 stars
9/11/99 Timbo Annoying as a case of crabs 1 stars
9/11/99 Kevin Way Yet Another Conspiracy Movie. 3 stars
8/26/99 Sylvia phantastic thriller 5 stars
8/24/99 Pierce Lanson Bloody good film!!-Tense thriller, great performances! 5 stars
8/16/99 Brigid O'Connor Not as good as expected 3 stars
8/13/99 elizaveta Truly amazing film - Constantly on edge from the first scene to the devastating last!!! 5 stars
8/10/99 yoon ji -san f 4 stars
8/01/99 Obi Wan Came in with no expectations...but was satisfied with what I left. Defn8ly an HBO flick 3 stars
7/27/99 David Kindred Some good points at beginning, but tried too hard to screw you in the end. 2 stars
7/23/99 Jo Jo, The Idiot Circus Boy Mmm.....feed me to Mystery Science Theater 3000 1 stars
7/23/99 Mr. Morden Wonderfully acted, but very poorly written. Hilariously bad at times. 2 stars
7/23/99 PhilmPhreak Just saw it and barely remember anything about it 3 stars
7/19/99 Malbert Pretty disturbing-Tim Robbins was incredibly creepy 4 stars
7/17/99 buddy Wow, great film, much better than that other thriller, Gen Daughter 5 stars
7/11/99 Majawat Well done character film, with a great trick ending. 4 stars
7/10/99 PurityJustBegs A very paranoid and dark thriller! Flawless acting, intelligent story..a superb thriller! 5 stars
7/09/99 Matthew Bartley Very chilling 4 stars
1/06/99 The Dude VERY COOL THRILLER Tim Robbins is fucking great. 5 stars
11/24/98 Johny Mediocre thriller until great ending. Intense direction. 3 stars
11/23/98 Chris Very Intense, Awsome Ending... Go see it. 4 stars
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  09-Jul-1999 (R)
  DVD: 26-Oct-1999



Directed by
  Mark Pellington

Written by
  Ehren Kruger

  Jeff Bridges
  Tim Robbins
  Joan Cusack
  Hope Davis
  Robert Gosset
  Mason Gamblet

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