Harrison Ford came out of semi-retirement for this? I guess I shouldn’t be overly surprised seeing as though Ford hasn’t appeared in a truly superb film since 1994’s The Fugitive. Firewall is a classic Ford project through and through, but the difference now is that he is 63 years old and the shtick of him flying through windows and clobbering guys more than half his age seems far-fetched and silly – especially in a story as laughable as this one.
In the film Ford is Jack Stanfield, a well-respected security specialist for a branch bank in Seattle, Washington. He has everything a man could want out of life; a beautiful home, a loving family, and a comfortable lifestyle – that is, until Bill Cox (Bettany) enters the picture. A routine meeting quickly turns frightening as Cox and his frat boy henchman reveal that they have Jack’s family held hostage in his own home and the only way to get them back safe and sound is to help Cox bypass the bank’s security and pull off the robbery. Guess what happens from here.
I was actually enjoying the film as a slice of escapist entertainment up until the final forty-five minutes, which is when it completely flies off the rails. It’s like that game you play as a little kid with your mom as you try not to laugh while she’s tickling your toes. I was able to conquer my urge to snicker until the screenplay introduced a GPS-enabled dog collar, then I lost it. How disjointed is a screenplay when it needs this impossible bit of happenstance to occur for the story to progress? It’s bad enough that the movie had to consistently play the “look, it’s a cute dog!” card to keep us interested during the intermittent techno-babble, but the collar bit may be the new gold standard for impossible coincidence.
Ford turns in one of the glummest performances of his career, speaking in either a whisper or a grunt and looking flat-out disinterested in some scenes. I don’t think he has given in to his age considering the physical demands of the film, but one can’t help but wonder if this is simply a primer for “announced” Indiana Jones 4 (which, by the way, I hope with every fiber of my being does not end up happening). Paul Bettany is calm and collected as the suave and efficient Cox. He is undoubtedly channeling John Malkovich at his driest best and he ends up stealing most of the scenes. Virginia Madsen is reduced to the token duct-taped-in-the-corner wife who spends most of the movie begging for the lives of her children.
Director Richard Loncraine, who worked previously with Bettany on 2004’s Wimbledon, gives the film a nice high-tech vibe, but at the expense of clichéd shaky cameras and night vision. His direction is tight throughout, even during the aforementioned ludicrous final act.
Firewall is below average winter escapism, but those who have truly missed the Harrison Ford brand of justice may find the film enticing and fulfilling. I have always been a big Harrison Ford fan and I would never outright tell him to hang it up, but I would also hate to see him continue with haphazard, quick cash projects. He’s too good for that, and we all know it.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 105 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence.
Theatrical Release: February 10, 2006
Directed by: Richard Loncraine
Written by: Joe Forte
Cast: Harrison Ford, Paul Bettany, Jimmy Bennett, Virginia Madsen, Robert Patrick, Robert Forster