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Arlington Road

List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at 800]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 5, 2000 | E-mail the Author
A film that's unusual in style and containing an ending of the kind that's rarely seen in Hollywood pictures today,Arlington Road stars the team of Jeff Bridges and Tim Robbins in a modern day thriller about terrorism lurking in suburbia. The picture touches on many real fears about the threats that may be lurking in towns across America and although it occasionally doesn't work quite right, the performances and dialogue are consistently haunting.

Bridges plays professor Michael Faraday, living in a small suburb with his son, Grant and his girlfriend, Brooke("Next Stop, Wonderland"'s Hope Davis). We find that his wife has been killed in an FBI operation that went terribly wrong. The family finds themselves with some new neighbors in Cheryl and Oliver Lang(Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack). The Lang's have a son of their own and after Michael saves the boy when he becomes badly hurt in an accident, the two families spend more time together. Not all is as it seems, though; as facts don't quite meet up with each other, it becomes more and more evident that the new neighbors aren't what they seem.
The performances are excellent throughout; Bridges maintains a level of strong intensity throughout making the character fascinating to watch; Cusack and Robbins also get their roles right, hiding a level of evil behind every smirk. The film makes some interesting points, and enjoyably, is willing to test the expectations of the audience. The only point of the film that I really didn't care for was that occasionally it does feel slow getting to its last act. The cinematography is also quite good, with great use of the 2.35:1 frame to capture the confrontations between Bridges and Robbins, such as at the begining of chapter 16.

Although occasionally the picture has small faults, the majority of it is a smartly written, scary and disturbing picture.


VIDEO Columbia/Tristar has provided a very good anamorphic transfer for "Arlington Road" and although I didn't feel that it was quite perfect, it's still certainly of a high quality. Images are generally sharp to a pleasing degree, although they don't quite attain "razor sharpness"; there are some scenes that did look a little on the softer side to me- darker sequences, especially. Detail is generally good, but not great throughout the picture. Colors are impressively rendered throughout the picture, looking strong and vibrant throughout, with no instances of color bleeding.

The only problem that makes a very quick, short appearance once or twice is shimmering. Otherwise, there are no problems with pixelization, etc. The print used by Tristar is also free of any sort of marks, scratches. This isn't a bad looking image by any means; it just isn't quite as sharp as I would have liked to have seen. Tristar still rules at DVD, just a tiny bit less this time out. Some of this disc looks great, some of it doesn't quite look as good.

SOUND: A lot of "Arlington Road" is dialogue-driven, with very little other information besides the dialogue, which is consistently clear and without any problems. Surround use is only occasional, and could likely have been put into better use. Score by Angelo Badalamenti sounds strong and deep , but doesn't feel enveloping. Overall, this just doesn't quite deliver what it could have chosen to. I guess I was just expecting something more intense in terms of sound from a film like this.

MENUS:: Again, Tristar goes with basic art taken from the film to build their menu. Easily navigated, but no animation.

Commentary: This is a commentary from director Mark Pellington and actor Jeff Bridges. Pleasingly, it doesn't take on the usual actor-director relationship in a commentary, like Matt Dillon and Gus Van Sant in Drugstore Cowboy , where the actor may give out a few tidbits of information that the director expands on. Bridges may seem occasionally a little shy here, but what he offers is a lot of intelligent and interesting dialogue not only about the film, but on other things, like the marketing campaign. He starts off the commentary talking about what he would have liked to see in the poster and the trailer. He talks again later in the commentary about the trailer, and how he dislikes the way that not only trailers, but ads give away a lot of many movies, taking away the challenge from the audience.

Pellington does do a lot of the talking, leading us through the actors and performances, as well as talking about a lot of the production. Occasionally, he'll lead Bridges through the discussion by asking him what it was like to work with a particular actor, etc. Bridges is able to offer quite a lot of comments, though and I was very pleased to hear his discussion of the film. An interesting tidbit that's offered for a moment in the commentary and is also something to discuss is that the pan/scan version of this film will look very cut up, due to not only being shot in the 2.35:1 frame, but the way a lot of shots were designed. The full-frame video version, in my opinion, probably will be a little hard to watch, and that's putting it mildly. There is also a lot of discussion in the commentary between the two about where to take the audience in this film, what moments to emphasize, and how to play with an audience's expectations.

I found this to be quite an enjoyable commentary, providing some great insights into the plot and the production of the film. Although Bridges occasionally is shy when speaking, his comments are intelligent and very interesting and I hope he provides a commentary again for future films.

Hidden Vulnerability: The Making Of "Arlington Road": This is a very strong "making-of" documentary that contains interviews from the cast and crew taking a look from how they got involved in the picture to details about the production of the picture. One point that I found quite interesting was Bridges talking about his preparation, from working with the writer and director to actually visiting history classes to find out more about looking like a realistic history teacher.

A lot of the documentary presents the viewpoints of the actors and crew on a story like this and how they prepared. I would have liked a little more footage of the film "behind-the-scenes", but as is, it's an interesting presentation. This documentary runs a little bit under 20 minutes.

Trailers: The trailers for "Arlington Road"(which is presented in 1.85:1 and it sounds excellent), "Starfighter" and "The Last Picture Show".

Alternate Ending: Director Mark Pellington contributes an in-depth opening discussion on the ending of the picture and his thoughts on the concepts and ideas behind it, then going into his other options on the ending of the picture and an explanation of the ending that is shown. Pellington's discussion lasts about 4minutes and 20seconds. The remainder, the alternate ending, lasts about 5minutes and 30 seconds or so.

Talent Files: The usual cast/crew bios. These are alright, they're not too terribly in-depth, offering only a handful of notes on Bridges, Robbins, Cusack and director Pellington.

Final Thoughts:: It's not a movie that everyone will enjoy, but Tristar has put together a nicely done package for its DVD release. If you're a fan of the movie, or at least a fan of the actors and curious about the picture, I'd recommend "Arlington Road". Otherwise, it's at least a solid rental.






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