An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis




                The critics hammered “Firewall.”  Cliché ridden, they said, and gave it a D minus.  They are afraid, I think, to praise the ordinary lest they seem ordinary themselves.  So let’s look at the new Harrison Ford thriller not from that perspective, but from the view of the moviegoer in the mood for an old-fashioned thriller.  After all, we don’t need to grow every time we see a movie.  Sometimes we don’t need to be provoked or challenged or moved.  Sometimes we just want to be scared.


Going in, we already know we are dealing with the pedestrian elements of bank robbery, computers, and hostages.  But this is Harrison Ford.  He goes through most of the movie in a state of controlled rage at his inability to help his family.  No one is better able to convey nobility.  No one can love his wife and children more; if he whips the villain, - we know this to be true – he will erupt in a volcanic explosion of loyal fury.  And because Ford, with his newly Rushmorian facial muscles ferociously clenched, will inevitably triumph, we are perfectly happy to forgive the clichés. 


Security expert Jack Stanfield has two lives – work and family – and loves both.  Several early scenes, played well by Ford and Virginia Madsen as Beth, establish the comfort and pleasure of their daily lives.  That established, their wow house on a Seattle cliff is invaded suddenly and violently by men with a plan to break into the bank security system that Jack designed.  Leader of the gang is Bill Cox (Paul Bettany) who crashes into the picture, takes Jack hostage, and leaves the family tied, taped, and terrified in their own house. 


Bettany’s Cox is a grand villain, proving yet again that the best of brutes have hearts of stone and a terrible ability to appear normal.  Virginia Madsen is calm and smart as Jack’s architect wife, credible in a story that is not credible on any level.  In fact, almost every detail of the plot is ridiculous, but what do we expect?  Who is looking for holes when we are sunk in two hours of fearful anticipation that some member of this perfect family with the perfect dog will be harmed?  This is the kind of movie where violence is incidental to the bigger justice of good guys vs. bad in the race against time.  Anything more original would be a distraction.


There’s a good chance you will enjoy watching warring computers, the use of a Mixmaster as a lethal weapon, and an IPOD used in a good cause.  You might also love a car that won’t start at a moment of crisis and a wonderfully improbable burst of a Baptist church band.  There are some great wrinkles here, and some good lines.  That fellow who gave it a D minus doesn’t understand nobility.  Harrison Ford, finally unleashed, is bloodied, beaten, and noble.  That’s what we were waiting for.


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