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"Arlington Road" on DVD

Neighborhood Watch

by Jim Bray

"Arlington Road" is a nifty flick that goes along as your typical suspense offering until a couple of minutes from the end, at which time reality comes at you from left field and you're left scratching your head in awe at the unaccustomed ingenuity of the screenplay's final twists.

Jeff Bridges stars as college prof Michael Faraday, who teaches a course on urban terrorism. His wife, an FBI agent, was killed in a "Ruby Ridge-type" incident and he's slowly getting his life back together, though haunted by the experience and the fact that it had been totally unnecessary.

Alarm bells start going off in his head when he notices some funny things going on with his neighbors, Oliver and Cheryl Lang (Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack) who have recently moved into the area and are turning into good friends - or so it appears.

But things are never what they appear on Arlington Road - or are they? Bridges unmasks Robbins' past and, when confronted by it, Robbins admits his past mistakes and has good explanations about them. This causes an embarrassed Bridges to re-assess his opinions of his neighbor.

Then the movie takes a sharp turn and events take off at a breakneck pace to a remarkable conclusion that shows there's still some creativity left in Hollywood - and bravo for that!

Unfortunately, the film - in typical Hollywood/media intelligentsia manner - insists on labelling right wing groups as bad while ignoring the historical record of left wing groups. This political shot is totally unwarranted in the movie, since the terrorist acts perpetrated in "Arlington Road" have been done by both sides of the ideological coin in real life (consider the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings and Pan Am flight 103, for example, then throw in Waco to further muddle things) especially since the ideology of the terrorists in this movie is never more than hinted at.

To be fair, they don't belabor this point, which is nice, but one gets tired of this endless campaign to demonize people with whom the Hollywood liberal establishment don't agree

But I digress...

Performances by the leads are first rate, and Joan Cusack is alternately charming and chilling - despite showing virtually the same, "good neighbor" facade - as her role is played out.

The DVD is in widescreen, Dolby Digital; the audio and video are digitally mastered and the quality shows. There's also a fair set of liner notes, a second-track commentary with Jeff Bridges and Director Mark Pellington which makes for a fascinating glimpse at moviemaking, a "making of" featurette, and an alternate ending that clearly shows the producers/director made the right choice in the one they used. There are also talent files, chapter stops, and trailers.

As an aside, I must tease Columbia Tristar for accidentally sending TechnoFILE nearly 4000 copies of "Arlington Road" to review. Needless to say, these 130-plus boxes really filled up our offices and the company was quite embarrassed by the mix-up (they shouldn't have been; it was just a clerical error that can happen to anyone). Columbia/Tristar also fixed the problem as quickly as possible (the boxes arrived on a Friday, so we poked our way around them over the weekend) and I must compliment them on their professionalism at getting the DVD's delivered to their rightful destination.

But after "seeing" Arlington Road 2500 times, the ending was no longer a surprise and we quit trying to get through them all...

Just kidding!

Arlington Road, from Columbia Tristar Home Video
117 minutes, Widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Digital
Starring Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Hope Davis, Robert Gossett
Produced by Peter Samuelson, Tom Gorai, Marc Samuelson, Written by Ehren Kruger
Directed by Mark Pellington


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Updated May 13, 2006