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ARLINGTON ROAD ($15) is a highly charged exercise in paranoia that takes a look at the possibility of domestic terrorism at the hands of right-wing extremist groups. Jeff Bridges stars as Michael Faraday, a college professor who is still trying to piece his life back together after the death of his FBI agent wife three years earlier. As the movie opens, Faraday rescues a young neighborhood boy from bleeding to death after an apparent fireworks accident. As a result of rescuing their son, Faraday becomes friends with Oliver Lang (Tim Robbins) and his wife Cheryl (Joan Cusack), the new neighbors from across the street. While the Lang's would appear to be the perfect family, Faraday becomes suspicious that his new neighbors are hiding something behind their cheery smiles and friendly demeanors.

As Faraday begins to dig into Lang’s past, he uncovers some evidence that his neighbor isn't the man that he claims to be and may be tied to a group that blew up a federal building. Is Faraday just being paranoid because his wife was killed during a shootout with an extremist group, or is Oliver Lang a genuine threat to the government? ARLINGTON ROAD is an entertaining and well-crafted thriller that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. Additionally, the movie has a pulse-pounding climax that provides a somewhat unexpected payoff. Jeff Bridges delivers solid performance as Faraday, however it is Tim Robbins’ subtly shaded performance as Lang that really steals the show. Joan Cusack also deserves high praise for a great dramatic performance, one that is a complete departure from her brilliant comedic work. The cast of ARLINGTON ROAD also includes Hope Davis, Robert Gossett, Mason Gamble and Spencer Treat Clark.

Columbia TriStar Home Video has done a really nice job with their DVD edition of ARLINGTON ROAD. ARLINGTON ROAD is presented in its full 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio and the DVD includes the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. The transfer is very clean, with a well-defined image and good shadow detail. Colors are nicely saturated without any evidence of chroma noise or bleeding. Additionally, flesh tones appear very realistic. Blacks are faithfully rendered and the image sports relatively smooth contrast. Solid DVD authoring and the use of dual layer technology preclude the presence of digital compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has an effective mix that serves both the dialogue driven plot and the film's climatic action sequence. Directional effects are effectively integrated into the mix, especially the forward soundstage, which has a wide-open sound. The surround channels spring to life during key moments of the film and are used for a number of split effects, as well as providing ambient sounds to the different sonic environments. As I stated above, the mix reproduces the film's dialogue quite well, never allowing it to be overwhelmed by any other sound component. Bass response is strong, adding authority to various sound effects. A matrixed Dolby Surround soundtrack is also provided on the DVD, as are English subtitles.

The interactive menus have a nice design, but are rather basic in their implementation. Through the menus, one can access the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the DVD's supplements. Topping the list is an audio commentary with director Mark Pellington and star Jeff Bridges. The commentary makes for quite a good listen; fans of the film certainly won't want to miss it, especially for the director's insights into the production. Also included is a twenty-minute Making-Of featurette that includes interviews with cast and crewmembers. The depth of this look behind-the-scenes makes this featurette somewhat better than the usual studio promotional piece. An alternate ending with an introduction is also included on the DVD. This feature goes to show why a lot of movies are really made during the editing process- the existing ending is stronger than the alternate version. Theatrical trailers and talent files fill out the DVD's supplements.

ARLINGTON ROAD is a solid and highly entertaining thriller that shouldn't be missed. Columbia TriStar Home Video delivers a great little DVD, worthy of the film. Recommended.


Arlington Road (1999)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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