Mercury Rising

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

Mercury Rising is a 1998 American 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, which was the working title of the film. Willis plays Art Jeffries, an undercover FBI agent who protects a nine-year-old autistic boy, Simon Lynch (played by Miko Hughes), who is targeted by government assassins after he cracks a top secret government code.

The film is the first of two collaborations between Willis and Baldwin, the second film being Motherless Brooklyn.

The film was released on April 3, 1998. It received mostly negative reviews and grossed $93 million at the box office.


During a bank robbery hostage situation, an undercover FBI agent, Art Jeffries, attempts unsuccessfully to negotiate for more time to defuse the situation. The FBI storms the bank killing the robbers, but Jeffries's cover is blown, so he is given a boring desk job.

A nine-year-old autistic savant boy, Simon Lynch (Miko Hughes) is given a sophisticated puzzle book by his teacher. One puzzle is a message enciphered with a code called "Mercury Rising". The ciphertext had been placed in the book by two National Security Agency cryptographers, Dean Crandell and Leo Pedranski, who created the new code which they believed no computer could decipher. Simon is able to decipher it with his eyes and phones a number included in the plaintext message. Pedranski and Crandell report the situation to their boss, division chief Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Kudrow. He severely rebukes the pair for their unauthorized actions, describing Simon and his abilities as a national security threat. Two assassins, Peter Burrell and Shayes, are deployed by Kudrow to terminate the boy and his parents, Martin and Jenny Lynch.

Posing as a police detective, Burrell gains entry to the Lynch household and unceremoniously shoots both Simon's mother and father with a silenced pistol. He is unable to find Simon himself when he searches the house. Upon hearing approaching sirens (Martin was able to call 911 before dying), Burrell stages a murder-suicide and is driven away from the house by Shayes.

Jeffries is sent to investigate and finds Simon in a hidden crawl space in his bedroom closet. Simon is taken to a protection ward at the hospital, where Burrell poses as a doctor and makes another attempt on Simon's life. Simon is saved by the timely arrival of Jeffries, who, upon meeting Burrell and deducing his true nature, flees the premises with the boy. Later, while on a train, Shayes attacks the pair and is killed by Jeffries in self-defense.

The NASA, under Kudrow's direction, frames Jeffries as kidnapper of Simon. However, fellow agent Tommy Jordan doesn't believe the story. Jeffries borrows Jordan's car and takes Simon back to his house. Simon again calls the telephone number written into the code and Jeffries is able to talk to Crandell and Pedranski. Crandell arranges a meeting via encoded e-mail at the Wrigley Building by the next morning. Jeffries goes to the meeting, leaving Simon under the care of a woman in a coffee shop, Stacey Siebring. Jeffries meets Crandell who tells him about the code and Kudrow, but Crandell is shot dead by Burrell before he can reveal everything.

Jeffries returns to the coffee shop, and finds that Stacey and Simon have formed a friendship. Jeffries and Simon then leave, but then Stacey comes out leaves Simon and Simon almost got run over by a car but the FBI agent saved him then someone shoots the secret agents and then later in the middle of the night, Jeffries and Simon go to Stacey's house, asking for a place to stay. Stacey reluctantly agrees.

Meanwhile, Pedranski, having learned Crandell's fate, also tries to reveal Kudrow's unlawful actions by writing letters on a typewriter: one to Jeffries and a carbon copy; to be sent to the Senate Oversight Committee, but Burrell tracks Pedranski down and murders him as well, and confiscates the letters. However, the assassin overlooks Pedranski's carbon copies, which his girlfriend, NSA analyst Emily Lang, takes it to the FBI. Jordan discreetly arranges for her to meet with Jeffries to show them both the carbon paper of the letter, which, being covered in Pedranski's fingerprints, is crucial evidence. After the meeting Jeffries gives Stacey Jordan's number in case of an emergency. Jeffries goes to Kudrow’s home during his birthday party, and demands that Kudrow announce on national TV that the Mercury Encryption Project is a failure.

Jordan, under Jeffries's suggestion, arranges for Simon to go into the Witness Protection Program. 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. Stacey and Simon leaves her house for the pick-up point, while Jordan heads for the FBI Director's Office. There, Kudrow dissuades FBI Special Agent in Charge, Lomax, stating about his authority and the fact that Jordan arranged the Witness Protection under false pretenses.

After Kudrow leaves with him being in charge for the Witness Protection, Jordan shows the carbon paper evidence to Lomax and confirms that the fingerprint markings on it were Pedranski's, now fully validating the evidence against Kudrow. Jeffries, with Jordan and an FBI task force's help, sets a trap at the meeting spot. Armed with an M16 rifle, Burrell fires at the FBI squad who arrives to apprehend Kudrow, resulting in a shootout. Jordan protects Stacey from the killer's fire. Kudrow attempts to escape with Simon on a pre-arranged helicopter, but Jeffries leaps and knocks Kudrow back from the helicopter. They fight on the roof, but Simon walks to the edge of the roof and gets Kudrow's gun, giving it to Jeffries who forces the corrupt NSA chief back. Burrell is impaled to death by glass shards when the bullets fired by the FBI squad, and the wind gusts generated by the helicopter's propellers shatters the windows behind him. In a last-ditch effort, Kudrow picks up Simon to throw him off the building, but is shot multiple times at point-blank range by Jeffries. He falls to his death, crashing through a glass canopy.

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.




Barry Sonnenfeld was initially slated to direct the film, but due to commitments to Men in Black dropped out and was replaced with Harold Becker.[3]


Prior to Bruce Willis being cast, Nicolas Cage [3] and George Clooney were also considered for the lead.[4]


Home media[edit]

Mercury Rising was released for VHS and DVD on September 15, 1998. The Collector's Edition and DTS versions for DVD were released in 1999. A Blu-ray with Multi-Format was released on September 14, 2010, and the Double Feature with the film and The Jackal was also released for Blu-ray on March 22, 2011.


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]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a score of 21% based on reviews from 57 critics with an average rating of 4.37/10. The consensus states: "Mercury Rising lays the action on thick, but can never find a dramatic pulse to keep viewers -- or Bruce Willis -- engaged with its maudlin story."[5] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[6]

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."[7] 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."[8]


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]

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. ^ a b "'Simon' summons Willis, Becker to U". Variety. Retrieved July 8, 2021.
  4. ^ "'Simple' scribes connect on 2 pitches at U". Variety. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  5. ^ "Mercury Rising". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  6. ^ "CinemaScore".
  7. ^ Mercury Rising :: :: Reviews
  8. ^ Mercury Rising - A Film Review by James Berardinelli

External links[edit]