Computer security specialist Jack Stenfield (Harrison Ford) is a successful senior executive at a Seattle bank, who lives happily with his architect wife Beth (Virginia Madsen) and children (Jimmy Bennett, Carly Schroeder) at a beautiful ocean front house. When a ruthless and well prepared gang led by Bill Cox (Paul Bettany) invade their home with surveillance cameras and computers, taking Beth and the children hostage, Jack is forced to submit to their demands to hack into his own computer system and transfer millions of dollars into a secret offshore account. With his reputation and his family's lives at stake, Jack faces a tough adversary - and too little time.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If you're wondering what's English actor Paul Bettany doing in the cast list, remember that Englishman Richard Loncraine directed him in Wimbledon. They evidently enjoyed working together. Here Bettany plays the ice cool baddie, Bill Cox, who engineers a scheme that will transfer $100 million from the Landrock Bank into a safe offshore account he and his cronies can draw on. All he needs is Jack Stenfield (Harrison Ford), the security specialist for the bank (which is in the midst of a takeover) to help him. So they take his family hostage and threaten to kill them unless decent Jack turns into their accomplice.
It's hardly original action thriller material, and you can predict the storyline from the early stages of act one. But of course that is a reassuring element of the genre, and for those wanting to see Harrison Ford go through his troubled family man turned by circumstances into hero routine, Firewall is as effective as any. It delivers its promise of a tense and expensive thriller in which good guys and bad guys are clearly marked, there is not much to think about and plenty of Hollywood filmmaking to watch-n'forget.
There is no humour in the film, and while the hand picked cast (like Alan Arkin playing a bank boss, Robert Forster as a banking friend, and plucky Mary Lynn Rajskub as Jack's secretary) is all first rate, there is a faintly tired feel to the film, mostly due to its derivative screenplay.
Review by Louise Keller:
If the recent survey in Sydney that correlates the level of its residents' happiness with location is any guide, those who live in rainy Seattle must be unhappy. There is rain and more rain in Harrison Ford's new action thriller Firewall, and it spells angst. And like the rain, the music pounds.... interminably. The film is pretty much what you would expect - a formulaic, predictable plot and Ford cast as everyman who does impossible things. When his family is held for ransom, he needs to find an instant solution to tap into the bank's security system and siphon millions of dollars in funds, and of course save his wife and kids in the meantime. While director Richard Loncraine manages the elements reasonably well, his skills seem more suited to Wimbledon and My House in Umbria.
Ford looks as though he is trying too hard - he is too wide-eyed and too fraught. However, Bettany does a fine job as the avaricious villain and there are some interesting casting decisions, like that of Mary Lynn Rajskub as Jack's po-faced secretary Janet. The sub plot of an off-beat would-be office romance between Janet and nerdy Matthew Currie Holmes's Bobby is also a nice touch, but the talented Virginia Madsen is totally wasted as the perfunctory wife and mother.
The script offers a few too many 'Are you ok?' phrases and where it tries to be slick, it feels contrived. It's hard to feel connected to the characters when we don't believe the interaction between them. How can we believe the interaction between the 8 year old and Paul Bettany's perpetrator who is calmly flipping pancakes in the kitchen, or that of Ford's Jack in conversation with the family dog Rusty at a moment when action would be more convincing? There are a few good plot points, although the ease with which Jack manages to overcome technical obstacles, delete security camera files and find his way into bank accounts, with just his teenage daughter's ipod and a bit of nous, is somewhat distracting. We never feel as though the characters are seriously at risk and some of the action sequences are choppy with too many close ups and edits.
Firewall won't set the world on fire, but for those who are looking for a few embers of escapism, may find a few degrees of warmth.
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CAST: Harrison Ford, Paul Bettany, Virginia Madsen, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Robert Patrick, Alan Arkin, Robert Forster
PRODUCER: Armyan Bernstein, Jonathan Shestack, Basil Iwanyk
DIRECTOR: Richard Loncraine
SCRIPT: Joe Forte
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Marco Pontecorvo AIC
EDITOR: Jim Page
MUSIC: Alexandre Desplat
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Brian Morris
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 2, 2006
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: August 17, 2006