Arlington Road film poster
|Directed by||Mark Pellington|
|Produced by||Tom Rosenberg
|Written by||Ehren Kruger|
|Music by||Angelo Badalamenti
|Edited by||Conrad Buff|
|Distributed by||Screen Gems (USA)
PolyGram Pictures (Global)
|Release dates||July 9, 1999|
|Running time||117 minutes|
Arlington Road is a 1999 American mystery thriller film, which tells the story of a widowed George Washington University professor who suspects his new neighbors are involved in terrorism and becomes obsessed with foiling their terrorist plot. The film stars Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, and Hope Davis and is directed by Mark Pellington. Ehren Kruger wrote the script, which won the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' (AMPAS) Nicholl Fellowship in 1996. The film was to have been originally released by PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, but was sold to Sony Pictures Entertainment before it opened. The eventual release was the first title for Screen Gems while PolyGram (now part of Universal Studios) handled foreign rights.
Michael Faraday (Jeff Bridges) is a college history professor at George Washington University who has been raising his nine-year-old son, Grant (Spencer Treat Clark), since the death of his FBI agent wife, Leah, who was killed in the line of duty in a scene loosely based on the real-life Ruby Ridge incident. Despite this, the arrival of his new neighbors, the Langs, gives Michael new spirits, as they are very friendly and have children who are Grant's age. Somewhat of a specialist regarding American terrorism and due to teach a class on terrorism at the university, Michael starts to become suspicious of Oliver (Tim Robbins) and Cheryl Lang (Joan Cusack), after taking their son, Brady (Mason Gamble), to the emergency room following a reported fireworks accident.
At first his suspicions are based on little things such as Oliver's architectural blueprints that seem to be for something other than the shopping mall he claims he's building, as well as pieces of mail that contradict where Oliver said he attended college. Neither his girlfriend and former student, Brooke Wolfe (Hope Davis), nor his wife's former FBI partner, Whit Carver (Robert Gossett), believe any of his wild theories. After doing some digging, Michael discovers that Oliver's real name is William Fenimore, and that he built a pipe bomb and used it to try to blow up a postal office in Kansas when he was 16. William/Oliver confronts Michael over his looking into William's past. He reveals that 'Oliver Lang' is the name of his friend, who died in a hunting accident. William's family had owned a farm but it went broke because the government 'appropriated' the river that ran through it 'for other uses'. As a result the crops died and they could not raise any animals. According to William, his father then killed himself and made it look like a tractor accident so the family could claim the life insurance. He left a note for William explaining everything. William built the pipe bomb to get back at the government. When William's friend Oliver died he took his name the next day to hide his past. This makes Michael think twice about what he had found out.
Michael continues to uncover what could be possible evidence and starts to suspect that Oliver is a terrorist. One day, Brooke casually spots Oliver and follows his car after witnessing a suspicious package delivery in a garage. Her trail ends up in the headquarters of a mail delivery company from where she decides to call Michael and leave a message, finally accepting his fears as founded; unfortunately, after hanging up, she turns around... only to see Cheryl standing right behind her, who had obviously heard the whole message.
Brooke's murder (which happens entirely off-screen), is covered up by making it look like Brooke died in a car crash. Michael realizes this after finding out, a few days later, that at least two voice messages were left in his answering machine and then erased by someone else who gained access to Michael's house while he was not home. He tells Carver that Lang may have been involved in her death, and is going to get proof by traveling to St. Louis to talk to a terrorist's father, Arthur Scobee Sr. Scobee's son blew up an IRS building five years ago (a thinly veiled allusion to the Oklahoma City bombing ), killing himself and 63 other people (including eight children) in the process. It becomes obvious that Scobee was set up. Another clue leads Faraday to suspect that his son may be in danger when he sees that the late Scobee knew some people that Lang also knows.
Michael theorizes that Oliver intends to blow up the FBI headquarters, and decides to try and stop him. Eventually Oliver and his co-conspirators use a field trip with a Scouts-style organization to keep Grant as an unknowing hostage. Michael rents a car the next day and follows the van his son is in, which eventually leads him to the FBI headquarters. Lang causes Faraday to crash into Oliver's van and begins to beat him up. After getting into a fistfight with Oliver in an old building, Michael tries to help him understand that killing hundreds of people won't make a difference, any more that it can bring back Michael's wife. When Oliver refuses to call off the bomb, Michael has to stop it before it's too late.
Michael forces his car into a secure parking garage of the FBI federal building, only to discover that he has followed the wrong van into the parking garage. Attempting to calm Michael, Whit informs him that he is the only person not cleared to be in the garage. Confused at first, Michael rushes back to his car and opens the trunk, revealing the bomb that he was unknowingly transporting the whole time and has led it right into Oliver's target. The bomb then detonates, killing Michael, Whit, and 183 others.
Posthumously, Michael is vilified by all news outlets as a terrorist who destroyed the FBI headquarters under the motive of seeking revenge for his wife's death. The Langs and their conspirators (some of whom include the Scout taskmaster, a telephone maintenance man, and at least one of Faraday's students) completely get away with it. Grant, now orphaned, ends up living with relatives. After the Langs decide to move out of the neighborhood, Cheryl suggests to Oliver that they should go "someplace nice, someplace safe"... perhaps implying that sooner or later they will strike another government target elsewhere, as well as find another fall guy to take the blame for their actions.
- Jeff Bridges as Michael Faraday
- Tim Robbins as Oliver Lang/William Fenimore
- Joan Cusack as Cheryl Lang/Fenimore
- Hope Davis as Brooke Wolfe
- Robert Gossett as FBI Agent Whit Carver
- Spencer Treat Clark as Grant Faraday
- Mason Gamble as Brady Lang/Fenimore
- Stanley Anderson as Dr. Arthur Scobee
- Jordan Craig as Victor
On a US$21.5 million budget, the film made a worldwide gross of $41,067,311. It opened at #6 in its opening weekend with $7,515,145 behind American Pie, Wild Wild West 's second, Big Daddy 's third, and Tarzan and The General's Daughter 's fourth weekends.
- Arlington Road at the Internet Movie Database
- Arlington Road at Box Office Mojo
- Arlington Road at Rotten Tomatoes