Culture > Movies

Firewall

Movies | Harrison Ford isn't too old for action films, but the plot here is far too familiar

Issue: "Nuke nightmare," Feb. 25, 2006

An "eh" and a shrug is about the best response the makers of Firewall can reasonably expect. A tired plot with little invention, character development, or filmmaking flair, Firewall (rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence) finds marginal success based solely on a handful of well-staged scenes and the always reliable (but much too familiar) sight of Harrison Ford going to any length necessary to protect his family.

Mr. Ford plays Jack Stanfield, the head of security at a mid-sized bank in Seattle. He's a computer expert managing a team of technicians that keeps hackers out of the bank's impressive suite of servers. Like most films of impending disaster, Firewall quickly establishes Mr. Ford's perfect-but-soon-to-be-shattered life: loving wife (Virginia Madsen), two kids, high-paying job, ultra-modern cliff-top home, etc.

Into the picture steps Bill Cox (Paul Bettany), the mastermind behind an elaborate scheme to force Jack to digitally break into his own bank and steal $100 million. The leverage is, naturally, Jack's wife and kids, held hostage at Jack's own home while he is sent to work under audio and video surveillance.

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Firewall updates its plot with new technology, with an iPod figuring prominently in the heist, but we've seen all of this-done much better-before. There are hints that a more interesting film was perhaps left somewhere on director Richard Loncraine's cutting-room floor. A trio of skilled supporting actors (Alan Arkin, Robert Forster, and Robert Patrick) are almost completely wasted, their characters all ending in oddly loose plot threads.

The film does an adequate job of building suspense out of mini-crises, such as the severe peanut allergy of Jack's young son and Jack's attempts to get rid of the crooks' electronic surveillance of him. But any goodwill these scenes build up quickly dissipates in a ludicrous finale that offers up huge plot holes while systematically checking off apparently essential thriller clichés (huge, uncalled-for explosions, etc.).

There's been much talk about Mr. Ford's age, as though a 64-year-old actor is too old to star in an action film. The problem with Firewall, though, is the plot's worn-out maturity, not Mr. Ford's.

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