Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Arlington Road Review

It's a really good story that gets pretty dark as it progresses.  The problem is that, while the premise is good, the delivery is not.  Arlington Road is quite poorly written, acted and directed.  On the surface, I thought it would be quite good.  After all, it has three very good actors in Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack.  Add in that it is a thriller about domestic terrorism and it should get pretty exciting.  It starts out really well and ends decently.  But the stuff in the middle is quite forgettable.

The direction from Mark Pellington is a bit over the top.  Had he just stayed with it being a dark movie, it might have been better.  But his weird camera angles, odd lighting choices and overbearing music actually maces the movie seem like a bit of a parody of itself.  When you add in the fact that the dialogue is written quite poorly and cheesy, the entire tone of the movie suffers.  Furthermore, the writing, at times, is confusing.  I realize this is a conspiracy thriller so there have to be some twists.  But for a lot of the time, there was no proper exposition to explain how the story was unraveling.  As a result, the confusion compounds with the next twist.  If this happens too much (as it did here) the viewer can lose interest quickly.

As far as the acting goes, it seems that none of the three big names could really get it together at all.  Robbins and Cusack have great characters.  Both of those actors have the look and talent that should have been constantly sending shudders down my spine.  But, because of the poor writing, both performances became almost laughable.  Bridges, on the other hand, played his character quite well.  Oddly enough, his character was the laughable part.  Faraday is a history professor that specializes in domestic terrorism and he has a chip on his shoulder with the FBI.  He's constantly looking for conspiracies yet, when it comes to his wife's death, he's too quick to dismiss any conspiracy in either the government or the killers.  So, in spite of the decent performance, I could never really get on board with the character and didn't care about the outcome.

Don't bother seeing it.  If it were to come out now, I'd be one of the people rushing out to see it because I like thrillers.  But it came out 12 years ago and didn't age very well.  Maybe that's because it isn't really relevant anymore in the post September 11 world.  Had it been done well, it could still have some value in its historical context.  But the subpar production should put in pretty far down on your list of thrillers to watch.

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