Arlington Road is not a joyful film to watch - it’s more a test of nerves, but that is precisely where its quality lies. It’s a pre-9/11 terrorism film with obvious reflections of the Oklahoma City bombing and a focus on domestic terrorism and the internal resistance to government.
The plot concerns Michael Farraday, played by Jeff Bridges, an American History teacher, specialising in terrorism. We learn his wife was killed in the line of duty for the FBI and all of this builds a foundation for Michael to be a very paranoid man. When Oliver Lang, played by Tim Robbins, moves in to the neighbourhood he seems to fit the suburban profile, an architectural engineer with a young family. Michael senses something isn’t right and we learn very quickly that Lang hides some very dark secrets.
Ultimately, the film is not quite as smart as it thinks and it does sometimes fall on the wrong side of the melodrama line. Despite this and its initial negative reviews, it is absolutely saved by its twists and scenes of nail-biting tension.
Tim Robbins is particularly strong, relishing the wild eyed intensity he brings to the role. Joan Cusack as his wife is also interesting, she’s all sweetness and friendliness but with a clear malevolence behind that. Bridges has a difficult job here but does it well, playing the paranoid father without overselling the performance.
It seems to have disappeared from focus in the last decade, but it’s well worth a revisit.
Film graduate and Project Manager from Newcastle Upon Tyne, horror obsessive, defender of underappreciated movies, lover of old school wrestling, catalogue of useless music trivia, aspiring author and all round moaner