Arlington Road

USA/UK 1998

Film still for Arlington Road

Reviewed by Ken Hollings


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

History professor Michael Faraday lives with his son Grant in a suburban street near Washington DC. Their new neighbours from St Louis are Oliver Lang, his wife Cheryl and their three children. Following an accident Michael rushes Lang's son to hospital, and the two households become friends. While Grant is slow to accept Michael's new girlfriend Brooke, Michael's university course on urban terrorism reawakens painful memories of his FBI-agent wife's death. Odd lies lead Michael to suspect Lang is connected to a bomb attack in St Louis, but no one believes him. He suspects Lang is planning a similar outrage in DC. Even when he reveals Lang tried to bomb a government office before, Lang shames Michael, accusing him of invading his privacy.

After witnessing Lang visiting the Liberty Delivery Service, Brooke is suddenly killed in a car crash. Michael uncovers evidence linking Lang to the St Louis bombing but is prevented from using it when Lang kidnaps Grant. Lang admits to murdering Brooke and discloses his new target: the FBI's DC headquarters. Michael intercepts a Liberty Delivery Service van, believing it contains both Grant and the explosives. Having pursued the van into the FBI's underground garage, Michael realises too late he is carrying the bomb in his own car and is killed in the explosion. The media describes Michael as a terrorist. The Langs wonder where their next home will be.


Reverberations from the Oklahoma and World Trade Center bombings continue to run slow and deep in the US. Following The Siege and The X Files movie, this is at least the third major US release to feature the FBI losing a prime piece of real estate to terrorists. From its opening sequence, in which Lang's young son Brady staggers down the middle of the street unaware his hand has been mutilated, Arlington Road establishes itself as a psychological thriller more concerned with questions of perception than motivation. "We don't know why he did this," history professor Michael Faraday says of the lone bomber thought to be responsible for killing 63 people in St Louis, "and we'll never know. And still we feel safe because we know his name." Michael's argument is not with the facts but their interpretation: "We wanted one name and we wanted it fast." This neatly lays the ground for the film's final irony, concerning the identity of who it is that blows up the FBI's Washington headquarters, killing 184 people.

As the liberal academic Faraday, Jeff Bridges gives a finely graded portrayal of a decent man struggling to conceal feelings of resentment against the establishment. Ultimately his struggle blinds him to how much he resembles the terrorist Lang. From the moment a hospital orderly mistakenly assumes Faraday to be Brady's father, the sinister parallels and similarities begin to multiply. Faraday and Lang both feel betrayed by their government and share the same belief in family values. A perfect match for Faraday's closeted liberalism, Lang articulates right-wing notions of self-reliance with candour. Claiming to be a structural engineer, he refers earnestly to "the buildings I leave behind". But it's Faraday whose workroom is plastered with anti-federal, white-supremacist posters while Lang's study is neatly hung with framed prints of Thomas Jefferson's Montecello, New York's Woolworth Building and the St Louis Arch. Even Lang's real name, Michael Fenimore, echoes Faraday's.

After Faraday's son is kidnapped, the film takes on an increasingly hallucinatory quality. Scenes end in slow fades to deep black. A 70s disco party at which Lang reveals that Brooke has been murdered is bathed in subterranean greens and blues. White light bleaches out a harsh close-up on Faraday's sweating face as he begins to comprehend his entrapment.

During the final chase, Bobby Bukowski's deliberately erratic photography suggests an ever-more skewed sense of perspective.

The editing contrasts asphalt-level shots of road surfaces with detailed crane shots of the Washington Mall, tidily laid out as if part of some architectural model or designer's plan. Long-term David Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti, whose moody score gives the film's earlier scenes of neighbourly peace and good order an edge, supplies a pummelling, bass-heavy charge to the final descent into the FBI's underground car park. Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of Arlington Road, however, is not the sight of smoke rising over the Capitol, nor even the media's distorted speculations concerning the final bomber's 'motive', but that Lang's reasons for acting as he does remain as mysterious as ever.


Ehren Kruger
Director of Photography
Bobby Bukowski
Conrad Buff
Production Designer
Thérèse DePrez
Angelo Badalamenti
©Lakeshore Entertainment Corp.
Production Companies
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment presents in association with Lakeshore Entertainment
a Gorai/Samuelson production
Executive Producers
Tom Rosenberg
Sigurjon Sighvatsson
Ted Tannebaum
Co-executive Producers
Judd Malkin
Ed Ross
Peter Samuelson
Tom Gorai
Marc Samuelson
Jean Higgins
Richard S. Wright
Associate Producers
Ellen Dux
James Mcquaide
Production Supervisor
Tamara Allen
Unit Production Manager
Jean Higgins Tyson
Location Managers
Susan Elkins
Washington DC Unit:
Peggy Pridemore
Post-production Co-ordinator
Carmen Abramian
2nd Unit Director
Vince Deadrick Jr
Assistant Directors
Jerry Grandey
William Paul Clark
Darrell Woodard
Pilar Savone
Kathleen 'Bo' Bobak
Courtney Wolfe
Brian O'Kelley
Washington DC:
Alison C. Rosa
Miles Perman
2nd Unit:
Darrell Woodard
Script Supervisors
Patricia A. Fullerton
2nd Unit:
Cynthia Felde
Ellen Chenoweth
Liz Keigley
Sari E. Keigley
LA Associate:
Marla Garlin
NY Associate:
Rudy Zuckerman
Leigh French
2nd Unit Director of Photography
Scott Smith
Aerial Director of Photography
Washington DC:
Brian Heller
Camera Operators
Jim McConkey
Washington DC:
William Coleman
Steadicam Operator
Jim McConkey
Special Visual Effects
Fantasy Film Effects
Visual Effects Supervisor:
Gene Warren Jr
Visual Effects Producer:
Leslie Huntley
Miniature Photography:
Christopher Warren
Gene Warren
John Huneck
Pyrotechnics Supervisor:
Joseph Viskocil
Model Shop Supervisor:
Gary Rhodaback
Optical Supervisor:
Betzy Bromberg
Optical Camera:
David Tucker
Bret Mixon
Digital Supervisor:
Tim Molinder
Digital Artist:
Kieran Carew
Special Effects
Randy Moore
Margaret Johnson
David Johnson
John Lynch
Graphics Designer
Jonn Cherico
Art Director
David Stein
Set Decorator
Barbara Haberecht
Storyboard Artist
Keenan Rew
Costume Designer
Jennifer Barrett-Pellington
Costume Supervisor
Kathy Kiatta
Key Make-up Artists
Bob Harper
Washington DC:
Joseph P. Hurt
Special Effects Make-up
Facades FX Makeup Lab
Phil Nichols
Melissa Nichols
George W. Simpson
Key Hairstylists
Sally Harper
Washington DC:
Judy Bickerton
Main Title Sequence Design/Production
Imaginary Forces
Kyle Cooper
Cinema Research Corporation
Additional Music
Phil Marshall
Angelo Badalamenti
Andy Barrett
Music Supervisor
Liza Richardson
Music Co-ordinator
Deroche Music Inc
Music Editor
Mark Jan Wlodarkiewicz
Scoring Engineer
Tim Jacquette
Scoring Mixer
Michael Semanick
Scoring Recordist
Bob Levy
"Neon Reprise" by Simon Shackleton, Howard Saunders, performed by Lunatic Calm; "Amistad Armadillo" by Miriam Cutler; "Get Down Tonight" by Harry Wayne Casey, Richard Finch, performed by K.C. & the Sunshine Band; "Do the Country Cha-Cha-Cha"; "The Big Lie"; "Alien's Goodies"
Sound Design
Randy Thom
Production Sound Mixer
Pud Cusack
Re-recording Mixers
Michael Semanick
Randy Thom
Ronald G. Rolimas
Mix Technician
Kent Sparling
Supervising Sound Editor
Phil Benson
Dialogue Editors
Dianna Stirpe
Claire Sanfilippo
Sound Effects Editors
Teresa Eckton
Stephen Kearney
Matthew Beville
Dennie Thorpe
Jana Vance
Frank 'Pepe' Merel
Tony Eckert
Claus Lynge
Technical Adviser
Philip Chojnacki
Stunt Co-ordinator
Vince Deadrick Jr
Jeff Bridges
Michael Faraday
Tim Robbins
Oliver Lang
Joan Cusack
Cheryl Lang
Hope Davis
Brooke Wolf
Robert Gossett
FBI Agent Whit Carver
Mason Gamble
Brady Lang
Spencer Treat Clark
Grant Faraday
Stanley Anderson
Dr Archer Scobee
Vivianne Vives
Lee Stringer
Darryl Cox
Loyd Catlett
delivery man
Sid Hillman
phone technician
Auden Thornton
Hannah Lang
Mary Ashleigh Green
Daphne Lang
Jennie Tooley
ponytail girl
Grant Garrison
Kemp, student
Naya Castinado
O'Neill, student
Laura Poe
Leah Faraday
Chris Dahlberg
Buckley, FBI
Gabriel Folse
Merks, FBI
Hunter Burkes
Hutch Parsons
Diane Peterson
Ma Parsons
Josh Ridgway
Parsons, aged 18
Hans Stroble
Parsons, aged 16
Michelle Du Bois
Parsons girl
Steve Ottesen
TV reporter 2
Harris MacKenzie
TV reporter 3
John Hussey
accident detective
Charles Sanders
camp official
Todd Terry
2nd camp official
Gina Santori
party girl student
Denver Williams
Willie Dirden
FBI guards
Paul Pender
Charlie Webb
FBI van agents
William Washington
FBI agent 3
Cindy Hom
TV reporter 4
Dave Allen Clark
TV reporter 5
Ken Manelis
Charles Bell, reporter
Deborah Swanson
bomb site reporter
Homer Jon Young
Robin Simpson
Doug Francis
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
10.578 feet
117 minutes 32 seconds
Dolby stereo
Colour by
Anamorphic [Panavision]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011