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bridges_sm.jpg (5000 bytes) Michael Faraday - Jeff Bridges
Oliver Lang - Tim Robbins
Joan Cusack Cheryl Lang - Joan Cusack
Hope Davis
Brooke Wolf - Hope Davis

Director: Mark Pellington

In my opinion, the greatest thing to fear, is reality itself. Unfortunately, this is not something that horror filmmakers have completely figured out yet. They have deduced that for some reason, blood and gore, wins out, over genuine suspense. Who needs to make up, or create something to be afraid of, when there are so many things in this world to truly fear.

Arlington Road taps into this fear in great depth, and with marvelous results. It strikes right at the heart of current events, and hits directly on the nerve, then refuses to let up on it. This movie, better than any I can recall, defines, and plays upon that scariest of human emotions, paranoia. It can swallow you up, consume you, and shade reality to the point that you are blinded, and living in an alternative world that you mind has created. How does this movie do it? Quite simply really, take ordinary suburban America, full of scouting trips, mini-vans, single-parent families, etc., and throw in one or two little coincidental details and ouila. You’ll be looking at your friends and neighbors in a whole new light.

The movie concerns a teacher, and his new neighbor, who may, or may not, be what he seems. The previews imply this, and I will delve no further into details of the plot. Part of the movies' magic, is not so much how the story is told, but how it is like a methodical puzzle, with each necessary piece being put in its place. You can see what you think it is, but you never see the complete picture until it’s complete, and when it is, you step back, and smile in admiration.

This is quite a brilliant piece of filmmaking really, one of the best in years, and the best suspense movie since The Usual Suspects. You will keep watching, and be on the edge of your seat, through most of its 2-hour running time. Now granted, it is not a flawless movie, there are several instances, where you have to suspend reality, and believe in coincidences. Also, some way-to-intentional camera angles, which are seemingly meant to incite and fan the flames of paranoia. However, in the grand scheme of this movie, those are forgivable due to the sheer genius of the script and performances.

Bridges and Robbins are near perfection in their roles. Bridges slow-burns from angry grieving husband/father, to suspicious conspiracy nut, with a ease. Tim Robbins sent chills down my spine, with his mixing bowl haircut, and calmly creepy vocals, to the point where I wondered why he hasn’t tackled a villain before. Even Joan Cusack, who is also developing an impressive range, plays it sweet, yet makes you wonder what is behind that smile, and those eyes, and does it wonderfully. I believed that each of these people could really be my neighbor, and live around me. I will definitely be looking twice, and paying more attention to those around me, when I relocate into suburbia.

If you’ve noticed, I haven’t said too much about what this movie is about, that is intentional, because everything you need to know is in the previews. Also, because the power and genius of this movie derives from it’s conclusion, which is powerful, masterful, and again, one of the best I have seen in a long while. Luckily, you don’t have to be very patient to get to it, because the suspense level is kicked in with opening scene, and pretty much maintained throughout.

Alfred Hitchcock once stated that the best way to build suspense is to let the audience in on something, that the characters in the movie are not. Create that sense of "Hey, don’t do that, there’s a mad bomber loose, don’t you know!", but the key is, they don’t, you do, and until, or if, they find out, the tension will build, and continue. Arlington Road is one of the best cinematic definitions of paranoia, that I have. Add in the realism, and the tie-ins to the Oklahoma City tragedy, and you may just be looking over your shoulder, and a little more closely, at everything, and everyone in your life. Venture out to the theaters for this one, but make sure you look both ways, and be careful who you sit by when you do. ($$$1/2 of $$$$)

Actor and movie information courtesy of the Internet Movie Database

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