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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 11/11/99

Arlington Road
1999 (1999) - Columbia TriStar

review by Frank Ortiz, special to The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Arlington Road Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B+/B+

Specs and Features

117 minutes, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:17:01, at the start of chapter 20), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary by director Mark Pellington and Jeff Bridges, 3 theatrical trailers (for Arlington Road, The Last Picture Show and Starman), "making-of" featurette, alternate ending, cast & crew bios, film-themed menus, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: English, Close Captioned

From director Mark Pellington (Pearl Jam's Single Video Theory, their Jeremy video and the film Going All the Way) comes an utterly fascinating and very contemporary thriller. I went into this film with a bit of curiosity. Story-wise it had me, the rumors of a twist ending had me piqued, and I found the cast to be as dynamic as it is interesting. But the main reason I was curious, was to find out if the script could rise to the talent level of the cast and crew. It was going to be interesting to see how successful screenwriter Ehren Kruger could be with this script, with my expectation of his screenplay for Scream 3 hanging in the balance. If he could keep me interested here, then I may just get excited to see Ghostface slash it out one more time. So did Kruger succeed? Let's just say, I'll be buying a ticket to the next Scream.

Arlington Road is a nice change of pace from all those action-packed conspiracy films, that usually have plot holes everywhere and too many witty one-liners. It's also a bit different than the overblown-budget, two-hour CGI fests that seem to litter the Hollywood landscape. What we have here is a slight, mind-bending, dark, close-to-home thriller, that WILL leave you thinking about everything going on in your close-knit neighborhood. Because you see, Evil does have a face... and sometime it looks just like your next door neighbor.

The story goes like this: Michael Faraday (Jeff Bridges) is a college professor of American History and Terrorism. He and his young son are both still recovering over the loss of his wife, who was an FBI agent killed in a Ruby Ridge-like raid. Michael starts to become close to a family who lives across the street (Oliver and Cheryl Lang, played deliciously by Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack) after he saves their son's life. But the closer he gets to them, the more he notices things about them that make him suspicious. His paranoia and knowledge start to take root, and begins to reveal the hidden secrets of his daunting and concealing new neighbors. The idea of "fearing thy neighbor" is exploited well here, with a vast array of mind games and well-acted interaction. Don't worry about getting bored here - Arlington Road keeps rolling along quite well. Oh, and did I already mention its nifty twist ending?

The video quality on this DVD is pretty good, however I found the colors to be a little soft and muted. The overall image is clean and without any color bleed. There was some NTSC crawl on the fine detail in the walls of the brick houses, but not a huge deal. The sound is a blast (oops, didn't mean the pun) with great backgrounds and underscore. The intensity is brought up by excellent mood scores and great low-end rumble. Also helpful is the clean center channel - dialogue shows no apparent issues with compression. There's some interesting sound direction as well, showcased during a dinner scene where both the camera angle and audio mix enhance different conversations at the same time, to center on either one or the other.

There are also some good extras on this disc, but they left me more content than blown away. There's a nice featurette, an audio commentary with the director and Bridges, cast and crew bios, three trailers, and an alternate ending. The alternate ending is the best of the lot, and includes an introduction by Pellington, so the audience can understand the motivation behind the scene, and why it was ultimately changed. Overall, Arlington Road is a terrific movie, and makes a great DVD. Just check it out.

Frank Ortiz
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