The poor writings on the Firewall

Harrison Ford helps redeem the plot holes in Firewall.
Harrison Ford helps redeem the plot holes in Firewall.
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Harrison Ford’s latest performance helps to prop up an otherwise uninteresting motion picture. In this case, star power is a no-brainer. Unfortunately, so is the script. Firewall, aside from having a cool-sounding title that has nothing to do with the movie, resorts to pretentious computer lingo to play itself as being more intelligent than it actually is.

Firewall uses one of the most overdone Hitchcockian plot ideas floating around Hollywood these days: an innocent man is forced to do bad things in order to protect his family. The movie is a predictable by-the-numbers thriller for the first half of the running length. You will feel almost like a psychic after guessing everything that comes next.

The opening is told in hyperkinetic cuts in order to grab our attention and say, “Look, this is a cool movie, watch what happens.” I feel saddened to see Harrison Ford looking miscast, playing a role that is meant for someone younger. Fortunately, Ford still possesses a charisma that makes him, as always, a noticeable presence onscreen.

He plays Jack Stanfield, the head of security for a bank that’s about to close a merger, a subplot that helps to introduce the main characters. With the exception of his secretary, played by Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jack’s co-workers only come to hinder his progress later on in the movie.

These characters are office stereotypes: the new boss who is a jerk, the techie with an infatuation for the secretary, the old friend who may be hiding something, and so on.

By far the best casting choice was Paul Bettany, who plays Bill Cox, a mysterious businessman. After a brief dinner with Jack, Cox forces him to drive home at loaded gunpoint. Jack’s lovely mansion is quickly turned into a base of operations for Cox’s devious plans. Jack is forced to either infiltrate his bank’s state-of-the-art security system or live to see his wife, daughter and son killed. The idea of a group of thieves taking a family hostage is a plot device used in Hostage, Panic Room and Don’t Say a Word. If you enjoyed any of those movies, Firewall should be the next visit you make to a cinema.

Only after Cox has revealed his plans and kidnapped Jack’s family does the movie finally generate a breadth of tension, albeit a small one. Jack is forced to rob his own bank and, like any hero in a thriller of this nature, try to outsmart the bad guys without getting caught or killed. Then, just when things appear likely to pick up in the third act, the movie stalls and becomes a cliché-ridden vehicle with better actors than it deserves. The powers-that-be believed they could make up for sloppy material by throwing in a forced burst of action, gunfire and fight scenes towards the end of the movie.

There may be nothing ingenious or original about director Richard Loncraine’s picture, but it does create a group of detestable bad guys. Paul Bettany is ruthless as the British baddie, eating cookies and watching The Flintstones one minute and threatening to break Ford’s son’s knees the next. Bettany, who starred in A Beautiful Mind and is in the upcoming Da Vinci Code movie, is an actor geared for future Academy Award nominations, but not for this performance.

Loncraine, who helmed the refreshingly underrated romantic comedy Wimbledon, also starring Bettany, is clearly confident in his vision on how events will unfold. He keeps the pace and flow of the movie consistent, without distracting viewers with useless interaction or red herrings. Considering as the screenplay is choked with implausibility, Loncraine succeeds in generating some suspense because of well-crafted editing. Firewall is flawed, but it is worthwhile for anyone who enjoys thrillers that provide a little escapism but require a large suspension of disbelief. What Firewall tries to do is replicate the same energetic but brainless formula used in Air Force One—another thriller starring Ford and produced by none other than the same people who’ve done this movie, Armyan Bernstein and Jonathan Shestack. What it succeeds in doing is creating yet another formulaic thriller we didn’t need. Whereas most bad movies overstay their appeal, Firewall thankfully clocks in at only an hour and a half. It will likely disappear from memory the moment you leave the theatre.

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