Friday, February 10, 2006

Firewall

—1. Overview
—2. Cast and Crew
—3. Photo Pages
—4. Trailers, Clips, DVDs, Books, Soundtrack
—5. Posters (Harrison Ford)
—6. Production Notes (pdf)
—7. Spiritual Connections
—8. Presentation Downloads


enlargeA firewall is “a computer or computer software that prevents unauthorized access to private data (as on a company's local area network or intranet) by outside computer users (as of the Internet)” and it also happens to be a pretty good movie that came out recently starring Harrison Ford. Why only pretty good? Well the first half of it does a good job of setting up the basic formula we’ve all seen before, but the back half gets dumb on us.

Jack (Ford) is established as a pretty good dad, caring husband, and grizzled veteran of e-warfare. He heads the network security department of a regional bank that is currently going through a merger. Someone has been following him (nicely set up in the opening credits) and preparing quite a dossier. They use that to invade his home, kidnap his family, and hold them. Jack keeps asking why and what they want. One can almost forgive him for not being able to figure that one out on his own. Well, Bill Cox (Bettany) clues him in as the head of this gang of thieves. They want him (in a move reminiscent of Superman III) to steal a little bit of money from each of his ten thousand biggest customers. In exchange he will get his family back. It turns out that Bill’s plan goes awry and he forces Jack to come up with a different solution.

The second half, where our hero should come up with a plan and beat the bad guys, has Jack going all action star on us. This is where it hits a snag, but not because of Ford, mind you. Old though he may be my man still has the ability to pull off what is required here. My objection is to turning a sixty-something computer geek into Kiefer Sutherland. Instead of having Jack use what we must presume to be his phenomenal brains, he instead relies on a water pitcher, a GPS collar and a pick axe to bring the bad guys low. There’s only one real instance of technical wiz-bangery that happens and it’s something that would make MacGyver blush or cheer or both. More of that is called for in a movie like this. As it is this movie could just as easily have been called “Dad Kicks Butt”.

Having said all that, this is a fun movie. Ford can still take a punch and chew the scenery. I really liked Bettany as the smart, greedy bad guy. He wasn’t over the top evil, but he delivered nasty in good quantities and had fun doing it. The kids weren’t annoying, which is refreshing. The mom, played by Virginia Madsen, was strong and resolute, but cried in the right places. I also enjoyed the supporting cast. Robert Patrick played Jack’s counterpart in the other bank and more of him would have been nice. Mary Lynn Rajskub stood out as Jack’s secretary and partner in saving the day. She is the essence of unflappable admin. The tension as the family tries to escape or when Jack has to come up with some way to circumvent the baddies is well used. I felt really entertained and it was money well spent.

Is there anything of lasting import here? Not much. Most of it is just dumb fun. A bit more of the family dynamic would have been nice to see. Daughter Sarah (Carly Schroeder) calls Jack by his first name early on. Mom works from home as an architect. Andy (Jimmy Bennett) and his sister seem to have a pretty typical antagonistic relationship. Generic, generic, generic. Maybe going through this experience would bond them as a family, but they seem awfully tight knit already, for reasons that aren’t clear. I know what sort of hours the respective parents’ jobs call for and it typically doesn’t allow for “pizza night” or the ability to execute an escape with military precision given two minutes whispered planning. Maybe LCD TVs in every room helps a family stick together in a crisis. That’s the message I seem to be receiving. Replace that with love and support and you’d have a family firewall worth its salt, a structure that can protect you from the ravages of the world.

Overview

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