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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

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Michael Faraday (Jeff Bridges) is a recently widowed college history professor, living alone with his ten year old son, Grant (Spencer Clark) in the suburbs of Washington DC. The loss two years before of Michael's wife, a junior FBI agent killed in the line of duty, still haunts both father and son. Through an odd turn of events, Michael and Grant are befriended by Oliver (Tim Robbins) and Cheryl (Joan Cusack) Langs, an all-American family new to their neighbourhood. While Michael begins to have misgivings about them and becomes suspicious, his girlfriend Brooke (Hope Davis) believes him guilty of paranoia.

"It is sometimes puzzling why a film that is made so well fails to ignite any passion or engage us. Arlington Road (a dreary title) is one of these films, beginning with cinematic flourish, using a collage of images with music under the opening credits that promise a great deal. Ambiguity, suspense, drama . . . a kid on the road, shuffling down the center, in danger, wounded, why…we assimilate the images and are fascinated, intellect at attention, emotional doors ajar. But as the film progresses, the sharpness and the intrigue give way to a more commonplace hustle of a thriller that is too cocky for its own good. Brilliant performances from Robbins and Bridges can’t rescue the plot-driven story, and the reason is they are fighting to create characters we can recognise or empathise with. No doubt the film has tremendous, almost electric aspects as a gripping thriller, but it lacks the emotional clout to make it great, even though there are emotions aplenty. It’s just that we don’t get into these people enough. But if you like action and story driven films, this is as good as any."
Andrew L. Urban

"Intrigue, suspense, conspiracy and paranoia are the key ingredients of Arlington Road, a fast-paced thriller which has some terrific moments, but ultimately doesn't fully engage. It's just an ordinary street with an ordinary name – symbolic of how the extraordinary can be found in ordinary circumstances. Yet even the top cast cannot quite overcome the script's one-dimensional approach to character. Jeff Bridges is passionate as the anti-hero, but I found myself being irritated by his chronic yelling and angst. We've seen Bridges playing this passionate, energetic kind of role before; he is truly limited by the underdeveloped nature of this character. Tim Robbins is a fascinating performer to watch – he creates such different personas, and always convincingly. Here he is suitably menacing, his nerdy haircut a constant reminder at his supposed guy-next-door persona. The unusual casting choice of Joan Cusack is rather intriguing – Cusack's performance is caricature-like and decidedly chilling. There is plenty of action plus there are many surprises, including an ending which is fuel for discussion. My tip is don't analyse this film too closely – you'll get more out of it if you don't. There are great effects in the opening credits, there's oomphy pulsating music and a genuinely thrilling car chase to boot. Arlington Road is a psychological thriller with a different slant; one that doesn't rely on Hollywood predictability, but is brave enough to make its own statement. Pity it kept me at arm's length."
Louise Keller

"There's no doubt that this creepy thriller will have a tough time finding an audience. Not because of the quality of the film by any means - but because it defies mainstream traditionalism and the role of hero in cinema. This is the kind of black unpredictability that is so refreshing and Arlington Road's success lies in its ability to seem predictable at the beginning, while slyly taking the audience on sharply different road than you initially expect. Featuring a sharply observed script by relatively inexperienced Ehren Kruger, directed with an assuredness by Mark Pellington (who helmed the uninspiring indie drama Going all the Way), Arlington Road is as much a black satire on the pitfalls of loving thy neighbour, as it is a deftly constructed thriller, and the two themes intertwine beautifully. A film such as this succeeds or fails with its actors, as it's a film that depends on the audience believing in the Everyman personae of its principals. Bridges is perfect as the grieving history professor who inadvertently becomes trapped in a deadly game of terrorism. He's one of those actors who can convey the stretch required here and be completely true to himself and his character. Tim Robbins has a tougher job playing the neighbour who may or may not be someone sinister, and is superb. Though initially Joan Cusack seems all wrong as the neighbourly wife, she creeps up on you - literally - giving one of the most chilling performance of the year. Tautly constructed, Arlington Road is an edgy and hypnotic film, more than just your run-of-the-mill thriller. This is a film with depth, that takes the genre and role of hero further than we've seen in American cinema before. It's a gripping and enthralling work, and the sure sign of maturity in its director."
Paul Fischer

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CAST: Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack

DIRECTOR: Mark Pellington

PRODUCER: Peter Samuelson

SCRIPT: Ehren Kruger


EDITOR: Conrad Buff

MUSIC: Angelo Badalamenti


RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes



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