Movie Review: Firewall

>The kinds of things I look for in a suspense thriller are a dangerous adversary, a likable protagonist, an overwhelming crisis, and a sense of real danger. Firewall has all of these qualities and more as it ups the ante by having the crisis set around the main character’s family who are taken hostage. The interesting twist is that his family is being held as hostages in his home with him. This creates the ever-present danger that if he fails to comply with the kidnapper’s demands, he runs the risk of having his family killed right in front of him.

In the movie, Harrison Ford (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark—do you really need me to tell you who he is?) plays Jack Stanfield, the director of network security at a bank in Seattle, Washington. The crisis begins as Bill Cox, played by Paul Bettany (A Beautiful Mind, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World), uses his thugs to take Jack’s family hostage.

The ultimate goal of the hostage takers is to rob the bank. They place such complete surveillance on Jack that it seems virtually impossible for him not to comply with their demands in order to save his family. This is exactly what I liked about it. There were times when I thought there was no way he’d get out of it, and sometimes when it appears that he is going to get them out, it backfires and makes the situation worse.

To avoid spoiling any of it, I won’t say anything more about the plot. I will just say, that Harrison Ford is getting old. That’s not such a bad thing, though, but it was strange for me to watch this movie after finding out that he’s about 2 years older than my parents, who are now 62. The filmmakers actually used this to their advantage a few moments when he actually gets hurt! At one point, he had to climb around the side of a building and I started to think that they were stretching the believability a bit, but then he drops down on the ground and hurts himself and struggles to get up again. He’s also almost 20 years older than Virginia Madsen (Electric Dreams, Sideways), who plays his wife, but she did a very good job playing the mother of 2 children and I didn’t think about the age difference after a while.

My only complaint about this and other movies in this genre is that, while there were no questions left unanswered, the end of the movie came too soon after the climax. I like to have a little time to see that the characters are all really OK and that they are getting their lives back. At the beginning of this movie, his daughter calls him “Jack”, instead of “Dad” indicating that there must be some kind of rift between the two of them. I would have liked to see more of an emotional connection between them by the end.

Another thing that stuck out to me, though it didn’t bother me as much as other movies have, is that there was no foreshadowing left unexplored. Comments like, “Hey, his Radio Controlled car is messing up the TV!” or “Don’t forget the dog’s new special collar” or “Don’t feed him peanuts because they’ll kill him” all come back to pay off eventually, though not always as effectively as you might expect. Just once I’d like to see someone look longingly at a tube of toothpaste, or something, and never see it again—just to play with our heads.

Overall, Firewall effectively lives up to the suspense thriller genre. Although it didn’t get my adrenaline pumping as much as some other movies I’ve seen, it’s still a fun ride with strong actors and an engaging plot.

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