Mercury Rising

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Mercury Rising
Theatrical release poster
Directed byHarold Becker
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onSimple Simon
by Ryne Douglas Pearson
Music byJohn Barry
Carter Burwell
CinematographyMichael Seresin
Edited byPeter Honess
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • April 3, 1998 (1998-04-03)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$60 million[1]
Box office$93.1 million[2]

Mercury Rising is a 1998 American political action thriller film starring Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin. Directed by Harold Becker, the movie is based on Ryne Douglas Pearson's 1996 novel originally published as Simple Simon. Willis plays Art Jeffries, an undercover FBI agent who protects a 9-year-old autistic boy who is targeted by government assassins after he cracks a top secret government code.

The film was released on April 3, 1998. It received mostly negative reviews.


A cryptographic code called "Mercury" was created by the National Security Agency and is allegedly so complex that its creators believe no computer on Earth can decipher it. Originally it was created during the Reagan Administration as a test to keep the United States' highest priority secrets under wraps. One day, the NSA receives a message from a nine-year-old autistic savant with prodigious math abilities named Simon Lynch (Miko Hughes), who calls a telephone number written in the code which was secretly published in a puzzle magazine by two of the creators, Dean Crandell (Robert Stanton) and Leo Pedranski (Bodhi Elfman), to see if anyone could break it. Crandell and Pedranski's division chief, Lt. Colonel Nicholas Kudrow (Alec Baldwin) sees the boy's ability to decipher the code as a grave liability. He dispatches assassin Peter Burrell (Lindsey Lee Ginter) to murder the boy and his parents, Martin (John Carroll Lynch) and Jenny (Kelley Hazen).

After shooting Martin and Jenny, Burrell searches the house, fails to find Simon, and leaves at the sound of approaching sirens (Martin was able to call 911 before dying). FBI Agent Art Jeffries (Bruce Willis), demoted following a diagnosis of delusional paranoia after blaming himself for the death of a teenager in a hostage situation gone wrong, is sent to investigate what is initially thought to be a murder-suicide. While investigating the scene, Jeffries finds Simon hiding in a cache of his bedroom closet and takes the boy under his wing. Jeffries begins to realize the difficulty of protecting, let alone questioning, Simon because of his impaired social abilities as a result of his autism, but the Chicago Police Department agree to assign a protection detail to Simon. Burrell tries to kill Simon again at the hospital, but Jeffries stops him. He is then forced to terminate an assassin named Shayes (Peter Stormare) on the Chicago 'L' train. The situation is further complicated by the fact that nobody at the FBI believes Simon is in any danger, and Jeffries is soon framed by the NSA as a kidnapper, with only his best friend and fellow agent Tommy Jordan (Chi McBride) aware that he did not commit the crime, since Jordan had been in contact with Jeffries when the incident began. Jeffries borrows Jordan's car (which Jordan later reports stolen to conceal his involvement) and takes Simon back to his house. Simon again calls the telephone number written in the code and talks to Crandell and Pedranski. When Jeffries confronts them, a conflicted Crandell arranges a meeting via encoded e-mail at the Wrigley Building. The next morning, Jeffries meets a woman named Stacey Siebring (Kim Dickens) in a coffee shop and asks her to watch Simon for him.

Jeffries meets Crandell and the two talk and stroll on a busy sidewalk. Crandell tells Jeffries about "Mercury" and Kudrow, then Burrell shoots him from behind and gets away safely. Jeffries returns to the coffee shop, but Simon and Stacey are gone. He goes outside and spots them coming across the street. Stacey says she and Simon have become friends and Simon agrees. Jeffries and Simon then abruptly leave Stacey. Later in the middle of the night, Jeffries and Simon go to Stacey's house, asking for a place to stay. Stacey reluctantly agrees and tells Jeffries that she was going on a business trip to Des Moines to make the rent the next morning.

Meanwhile, Pedranski, having learned Crandell's fate, picks up where his friend left off by writing a pair of letters via typewriter: one to Jeffries and the other to the Senate Oversight Committee, revealing Kudrow's unlawful actions. Soon after, Pedranski is murdered by Burrell, who also snatches the letters. However, the assassin neglects to grab the carbon copies Pedranski tossed, which his girlfriend, NSA analyst Emily Lang (Carrie Preston), takes to the FBI. Jordan discreetly arranges for her to meet with Jeffries to show them both the carbon paper used to type the letter, which, being covered in Pedranski's fingerprints, is crucial evidence in its own right. After the meeting with Emily, Jeffries tells Stacey to call anyone for an emergency except the police, who were called off at the last minute, and gives her Jordan's number in case of an emergency. While Jeffries introduces himself to Kudrow at his birthday party and demands that Kudrow leave Simon alone, Jordan, under Jeffries' suggestion, arranges for Simon to go into Witness Protection. After the meeting, Jeffries calls Jordan, who explains that the Witness Protection meeting is going to happen, though they are unaware that their conversation is being monitored by Kudrow. When Jeffries returns and finds Stacey and Simon gone, he learns from Jordan that they are not in any danger and will meet them there, just as Jordan is given an order to head to the FBI director's office.

Kudrow tries to have FBI SAC (Special Agent in Charge) Joe Lomax (Kevin Conway) help turn the tables on Jeffries by using his authority and the fact that Jordan arranged the Witness Protection under false pretenses. He plans to have the NSA take over the protection for the meeting location. After Kudrow leaves, Jordan shows the evidence to Lomax and despite his initial doubts, Jordan confirms that the fingerprint markings on it were Pedranski's, now fully validating the evidence against Kudrow. Jeffries, with Jordan and a small FBI task force's help, sets a trap at the meeting spot. During the battle, Jordan protects Stacey, and the FBI team takes on Burrell, who is killed, trying to escape, when the windows blow out slashing his face open. Jeffries and Kudrow fight on the roof during which Simon walks to the edge of the roof and grabs Kudrow's gun, giving it to Jeffries and allowing him to take control as Jordan and the team come in. In a last-ditch effort to get his victim back, Kudrow grabs Simon, is shot at point blank range by Jeffries, and subsequently falls to his death over the edge of the building.

Jeffries later visits Simon (now living with foster parents) at his school. He embraces the FBI agent as a welcome friend, having finally accepted him as a person he trusts.



Bruce Willis received the 1999 Golden Raspberry Award as Worst Actor for his performance (as well as for Armageddon and The Siege).[citation needed] Miko Hughes won the category of Best Performance in a Feature Film—Leading Young Actor at the 1999 Young Artist Awards for his portrayal of Simon.[citation needed]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a score of 17% based on reviews from 35 critics with an average rating of 4.2/10.[3] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[4]

Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four, writing: "Mercury Rising is about the most sophisticated cryptographic system known to man, and about characters considerably denser than anyone in the audience. Sitting in the dark, our minds idly playing with the plot, we figure out what they should do, how they should do it, and why they should do it, while the characters on the screen strain helplessly against the requirements of the formula."[5] James Berardinelli rated it one and a half out of four stars, saying: "The script for Mercury Rising is exceptionally tiresome and hard-to-swallow. ... Once again, certain standby plot elements -- the high-level government conspiracy and the maverick law enforcement agent -- are recycled, and not to good effect. While Bruce Willis can play the action hero as well as anyone in Hollywood, this particular outing leaves him marooned in situations that are characterized by too little tension and too much nonsense."[6]

Box office[edit]

The film earned $10,104,715 in its opening weekend in 2,386 theaters. Altogether, the film grossed $32,935,289 in the United States and $60,172,000 internationally for a total of $93,107,289.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mercury Rising (movie details)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Mercury Rising". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  3. ^ "Mercury Rising". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  4. ^ "CinemaScore".
  5. ^ Mercury Rising :: :: Reviews
  6. ^ Mercury Rising - A Film Review by James Berardinelli

External links[edit]