FIREWALL (2006) – Film Review

I saw this movie on opening weekend (I just haven’t had a chance to complete a review until now). I mean, why not? I’m a big fan of Harrison Ford, I’m a big fan of suspense thrillers, and I really liked the trailer. Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed with the actual movie. If I had to sum up the film in one word it would be “predictable.” That’s a problem, because Firewall is meant to thrive on keeping the viewer in suspense. The movie isn’t boring, but it’s hard to be emotionally involved in a story where you can always tell what’s coming next.

For those not familiar with the plot: Harrison Ford stars as Jack Stanfield, the head of security for a bank that’s on the brink of a merger. Jack’s not the biggest fan of this business move, but that soon becomes the least of his worries. It’s not long before he meets businessman Bill Cox (Paul Bettany). It turns out that Bill’s associates have infiltrated Jack’s house and have taken his family hostage. In exchange for his family’s life, Jack is ordered to break into his own bank and steal 100 million dollars. As his situation gets more bleak, Jack tries to outwit the villains while making sure they don’t kill his family in the process.

My favorite aspect of the film is the family dynamic, especially regarding Jack’s marriage. The relationship he has with his wife is refreshingly strong. (The kids still need some work, though.) In a rare cinematic display of humility, Jack lovingly tells his wife, “I don’t deserve you.” Jack also cuts meetings short at the office to make sure he’s home at a decent hour. I found these elements of the story to be intriguing. Alas, they fade into the background as the suspense—or what’s supposed to be suspense—comes into focus.

The acting is functional. Harrison Ford has done better and Mary Lynn Rajskub (as Jack’s secretary) evidently has only one face she can make when acting: the I’m-so-constipated-I-could-die expression. Paul Bettany is a good villain, but we’ve seen so many other good bad people (that is, people who have played bad characters well) that his evil nature isn’t all that shudder inducing. Virginia Madsen (as Jack’s wife) turns in the best performance.

To be fair, there are a lot of thrillers out there that stink worse than skunk roadkill, and this is not one of them. Most elements of the film are competently handled. Kris Bailey, my friend who accompanied me to the theater, found the movie to be quite entertaining. So maybe it’s just me. I guess the drawback to studying films is that you enjoy them less often. So be it. It also means that on those rare occasions when you come across a film that is both well made and personally engaging (such as King Kong, Batman Begins, and Flightplan were for me), you enjoy them all the more. I’m willing to live with the tradeoff.

Artistic Merit: 7/10
Personal Marks: 5/10