January 18, 2013

Arlington Road (1999)
Starring Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, and Joan Cusack

Comments:   Now this is one nasty little bastard of a movie.  

Anyone who has seen Arlington Road before knows exactly what I am talking about.  And anyone who has never seen it before, well you are in for a treat.  I won't tell you exactly what kind of a treat, but hey, at least you will remember it.  Nobody has ever watched Arlington Road before and then forgotten about it afterwards.  It really is one of the more unforgettable movies you are going to see in your life.

Arlington Road is the story of a man named Michael Faraday (Jeff Bridges).  He is a college professor at George Washington University, and he teaches a history course on American terrorism.  Oh, and he is also kind of messed up.  You see, Michael's wife (an FBI agent) was killed in a botched raid on a gun collector a couple of years earlier.  She was shot and killed because the FBI had bad intel, and because they screwed up now his wife is dead.  And even though he is trying to get over it and move on with his life, it is clear that he is still kind of messed up about it.

Michael having it out with the FBI director that killed his wife

Michael teaching his class about all the terrorists and crazies in the United States

Well in the middle of being angry with the FBI, and trying to get over his wife's death, and teaching a college course on American terrorism, something interesting happens to Michael one day.  A new family moves in to the house across the street.  They are the Lang family.  And Michael quickly becomes acquainted with them in the strangest way possible.  

He rushes their son to the emergency room after he has blown off his hand in a fireworks accident

Michael meets the Langs at the emergency room and they soon hit it off.   Because the Langs are just an ordinary family.  Just a nice ordinary everyday American family.  They are nice and friendly and normal just like everyone else.  In fact, they are probably just like the neighbors that you have across the street from you right now.

The Lang Family

Michael and his new girlfriend hanging out with the Langs

Michael becomes friends with the Langs at first.  They hang out together and they have barbecues together.  Their sons even join the same Explorer Scouts group.

But then...

Michael begins to notice little things about the Langs that start to unnerve him.

There are just little things about Oliver Lang's background as a structural engineer that don't really add up.

Michael spying on his neighbors

Michael sees Oliver's collection of famous blueprints.  Especially one of a building in St. Louis that was blown up three years ago.

Pretty soon, because of his background in American extremist groups, Michael has convinced himself that Oliver Lang is a terrorist.  And that the Langs have moved here to Washington D.C. so that they can pull off another bombing.  Just like the one that they did in St. Louis a couple of years ago.

More spying

Michael trying to convince his girlfriend that the Langs are terrorists

Michael pleads his case to his girlfriend, but she doesn't believe him.  He pleads his case to his contacts in the FBI, but no one believes him.  He pleads his case to anyone who will listen, but no one believes him.  And the whole movie turns into a big cat and mouse game.  Are the Langs actually terrorists?  Or has Michael been teaching terrorism so long that he is just paranoid now?   For about ninety minutes you get sucked into the world of what it is like for Michael to slowly go crazy.  

It is incredibly well done.

Terrorist?  Or just suburban dad?

In the end... well... I am not going to tell you.  You will just have to see it for yourself.  Although it is safe to say that the movie is NOT going where you expect it to go, and in the final few minutes you will be caught off guard and you will be holding your breath.  Because I can honestly think of very few movies that are as suspenseful and as nasty as this one is.


Oh, and get ready for Joan Cusack creepy eyes.  No movie has ever pulled off Joan Cusack creepy eyes as well as Arlington Road does.

When I say that Arlington Road packs a punch, I am not joking around here.  You better get ready before you watch this one.  I am not messing around.  This is a suspense movie like no other.  I  am amazed how many people I know that when I tell them I love Arlington Road, they will usually say one of two things.  They will usually say "OH MY GOD THAT MOVIE IS AMAZING!" or they will "Fuck that movie, fuck it all the way to hell, I hate that movie."  And again, I don't want to spoil it but you will know why when you see it.  There are very few movies that will divide an audience as completely as this one will.

Arlington Road came out in the summer of 1999 (in the middle of what I like to call "the best summer of movies of all time") and unfortunately it never really hit home with audiences the way that it should have.  Although there is a very good reason for that.  You see, Arlington Road is one of the more unlucky movies of all time.  At least, timing wise it was unlucky.

What happened in April of 1999 is that Columbine High School in Colorado had its notorious school shooting (or school bombing, which is more accurate.)  And since Arlington Road was supposed to come out a couple of weeks after that, and because it has a plot that is so eerily close to what happened at Columbine, the movie studio said NO WAY are we releasing this movie so soon after Columbine.  So it kind of got buried on the shelves for a while.  And then when it did come out later that summer they hardly marketed it or publicized it at all.  Again, it was so close to what happened at Columbine that no one in the movie industry wanted to have anything to do with it.

Arlington Road came out in the summer of 1999, and for about two years it developed a fairly loyal following.  People who loved it REALLY loved it.  People who hated it REALLY hated it.  Again, it is just that type of movie.  Although personally, I don't see how anyone can hate it.  Not if you appreciate suspense movies you can't.

So Arlington Road was popular for about two years.  And then 9/11 happened.  And once again, Arlington Road is so close to what happened on 9/11 that again, nobody wanted anything to do with it.  It was just too gripping, and for lack of a better term, it was just too "real."  So again it kind of got buried and people wanted to forget about it.

But I am telling you right now.  This movie deserves to be loved.   Again, it is a suspense thriller unlike anything you have ever seen.  You will laugh.  You will cry.  You will cry some more.  You will scream.  It is one of the most memorable suspense movies I have ever seen in my life.  And oh, that ending.  Oh my goodness, that ending.  After you watch it you will watch it again to see what you missed.

This is one of those movies that I really can't say enough about how crazy it is.  Between Jeff Bridges slowly getting paranoid and going insane, and Tim Robbins teetering right on that edge between sane suburban dad and sociopath, to being the only movie I have ever seen where Joan Cusack actually gets to play a scary person, this is one of those rare movies that you will see once and you will never forget.

At the beginning of my review I called Arlington Road "a nasty little bastard of a movie."  Well, that is about the best way I can possibly describe it.  It is one nasty little bastard.

See it once and you will understand why I call it that.

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about Arlington Road

Thrilling and ultimately chilling - 19 December 2000
This movie requires that you do not have any expectations of it. As long as you can keep from thinking it'll be like every other Hollywood piece of crap thriller out there, you will be . . . well, probably a little stunned.

That ending -14 December 2000
I love movies with a twist at the end (I promise I won't reveal it here). A good final twist can elevate a film to new levels. It can make a good film out of a mediocre one (Alien 3) or a masterpiece out of an already good one (Fight Club). (For the record, the only thing I don't like is when a film is so obviously built around its twist, that until it comes, it seems plot less; I mean The Sixth Sense). But Arlington Road certainly belongs to the Fight Club category. It had me gripped from the start, even if the plot seemed at times predictable and contrived, the manic energy of Jeff Bridges and the calm menace of the cast-against-type Tim Robbins were enough to hook me. And then it all comes together so beautifully, and all the contrivances are explained in one swift stroke. Chapeau. When a film makes you want to see it again immediately, that's a good sign. Watch this one twice. At least.

Stunning. - 4 June 2000
At the end of 'Arlington Road' I was stunned. I mean, I actually let the end credits roll before pressing stop on the video remote, it was that good. Really thought-provoking, harrowing, well-conceived stuff.

So why, relatively speaking, did it flop at the box office? This is the type of truly amazing thriller that would be a runaway success if Bruce Willis had taken the lead, or Christopher Walken had a go as the villain. But it's better than that - Jeff Bridges is perfect as the nervy, paranoid lecturer and Tim Robbins particularly creepy as his odd, possibly terrorist-related neighbour.

And what an ending!

This is the kind of film that deserves trumpeting as a major cinematic triumph, but will instead languish in that category filled with films like 'Breakdown' and 'Wild Things' - movies that will become forgotten gems. So watch it before you forget about it!

How Did That Movie Get Made? - 18 November 2000
I cannot recall a more disturbing edgy creepy movie coming out of a mainstream Hollywood studio. How did it get made? And more specifically, how did the studio, with all its focus groups and test screenings, let it get released with such a suprising ending?

I don't know, but I'm certainly glad we've got the fluke to show for it; a creepy twisty movie that really grabs you right from the start and won't let you go. I got that line from Jeff Craig. Go 60 Second Preview.

Seriously though, I'm not surprised this movie made zero at the box office, it's not a crowd pleaser. And I'm also not surprised everyone said I should go see it. They were right, I dug it big time. From the unnerving performances by Joan Cusack and Jeff Bridges, to the interesting script and plot, down to the nice direction and cinematography, I was hooked from start to finish.

Yes there are plot holes, but a lot of them can be argued away, and the film is just way too good in the moment not to enjoy it. This isn't a groundbreaking flick, but it is well made, and looks pretty good too. Any film that can make flipping through a yearbook visually interesting is doing its job.

Not for the faint of heart, or for those who need formulaic films.

The "how to" on making a good thriller. - 27 March 2004
"Arlington Road" is the perfect example for how thrillers should be made.

A good story, a good atmosphere, good actors and voila! you have got a good thriller. "Arlington Road" has got it all and it's a near perfect movie that is a must see for the thriller fans.

The intense beginning sets the mood for the rest of the movie. It's atmospheric and tense right till the good ending. I'll admit that there are some slow moments and some distracting plot lines but it doesn't take away the tension or ruins the atmosphere in any kind of way.

The movie is very well casted with Jeff Bridges as the more and more paranoid getting Michael Faraday and Tim Robbins as his neighbour that he begins to suspects of being a terrorist. Both main actors pull of really well and help to created the good thriller atmosphere that this movie has.

Good thriller with a great atmosphere, story, actors and ending that will stay with you forever.

Whoah - 15 October 2000
This is a heavy movie about the people who's paranoia and suspicion turn out to be the truth. In Arlington Road, we have a college professor who teaches a course on terrorism, so when the ideal neighbors move in next door well i know i'd like tim robbins and joan cusack next door to me) we slowly grows suspicious. As it appears his class is getting to his head, he really is correct, and whoah.

Unforgettable chiller - 8 August 2000
This is one chilling movie. It begins with the opening sequence, when we see a little boy dazed in the street, his hand bloody, and Prof. Michael Farraday (Jeff Bridges) comes to his aid. The boy is the son of Oliver and Cheryl Lang (Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack), a nice, suburban couple. But things start to change. Behind the fašade of suburbia, Farraday, already paranoid as a terrorism expert and as the widower of an FBI agent murdered in a Waco-style raid, starts to suspect that the Langs are quite different that he expected. From there, the story twists and turns towards one disturbing conclusion.

Arlington Road not only has a bizarre and twisting story, but has a unique visual look as well, thanks to director Mark Pellington. In fact, the film at times looks similar the the music video for Pearl Jam's song `Jeremy', which Pellington also directed. Bridges, perhaps the most underrated actor there is, is terrific and has a similar role in many ways to 1994's Blown Away. Robbins is an actor who is so versatile, that he can play both the innocent simpleton (The Hudsucker Proxy) or a conniving senatorial candidate (Bob Roberts), here displays a few new sides to his personality. Joan Cusack is also excellent in perhaps what is even a creepier role. This one will stay with you after the lights come up.

Under-Rated and Unappreciated Film - 10 October 2002
This is one of those films that will be dug up many decades from now and folks will be questioning why it wasn't one of the best films of that year.

This film is shocking, it's makes one feel paranoid, it makes one question government, security, makes one realize how deep love can go and that is love of spouse/country/political beliefs.

This film provides a great performance by Jeff Bridges, with excellent performances by Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack. Most of all, it will get you to think. This is not a film for those who do not want to venture into a different type of a mind of a "terrorist", this is not the film for those who want to see happy endings, especially if you want the government to come in and save characters. It doesn't. This is a film that takes every notion and bends them, especially the subject matter.

In 1999, who would wonder if their neighbors harbored any ill will? You do now. In 1999 who would think that terrorist think this way? You do now. In 1999 who would think that anyone as normal looking, white upper middle classed, as those neighbors were associated with fanatics? You do now. this film, for all its glory and mistakes, IS a view into a future..or a past..or both?

Many posters are upset with the ending. The ending is shocking, I'll agree. A let down? Nope. Did I see it coming? NO. Hence my like for the film.

There is so much in this film from the opening frame to the end, its a shame just to call it suspense, its a shame to just call it a thriller, its a shame just to call it political and its a shame just to say it terrorist get away with it all....it does all of those things, but what it does the most is have you look into the faces of all of this and understand how the innocent can be made into "whatever" by "whomever". The question is, whom do we trust in the climate as the movie proposes? The non-happy ending provides a clue.

I recommend this film highly, but only if you are prepared to view it at least twice, open minded, and without politics. It's a hard swallow, but a damn good script that will have you biting your nails at points, and maybe upset you in the end because of the conclusion. But taking risks are important in film, making you think far beyond the time the film has ended are too. Take a chance and view this one, see for yourself.

Great movie, esp Jeff Bridges - 23 June 2000
To go from "The Dude" in Big Lebowski to David Farraday only proves Bridges is one of the most versatile actors out there. He over-emotes a little in this film but he's great all the same.

The film itself is chilling and leaves you asking a lot of questions. Even if you don't believe in right-wing conspiracies and govt. conspiracies you have to acknowledge that this anti-government sentiment is out there in a lot of people; most people are merely annoyed but many are angry and their invisibility is their greatest asset. The way the film portrayed Tim Robbins' associates is one of the best examples.

Arlington Road was one of the few films in recent years that really affected me.


You are all missing the point.. - 23 March 2004
Many of the comments I've read refer to coincidences and the like with this film. The point, and I'm surprised no one else seems to have noticed, was that these WEREN'T coincidences. These people set the guy up from the very beginning. They had him watched, and they led him with a carrot on a stick the whole way to get HIM to be the one to take the blame, the "single man" theory. If you need any proof of this, refer to the last lines of the movie, where Mrs. Lang asks "Any word yet?" and Mr. Lang answers "No, but they'll let us know.". Looking for their next victim. The fact that Bridges' wife was killed and that he is a conspiracy theory nut was the whole reason they sought him out.

Great movie, phenomenal ending.

* My favorite quote from Arlington Road:

Oliver Lang:  Boom.

* My favorite scene in Arlington Road:

Everybody talks about the ending to Arlington Road (and it really is a memorable one) but for my money there is one scene in the movie that is even better.  Get ready for one of the most unexpected and effective jump scares I have ever seen in a movie.  No one EVER sees it coming and I have NEVER seen it fail to make a person who is watching the movie for the first time scream out or flinch.  I won't tell you where it is in the movie, but let's just say that it involves Joan Cusack.  And that it comes out of nowhere.  Bet you won't be ready for it.  :)

Arlington Road at the IMDB

Arlington Road at Wikipedia

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