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Warner Home Video presents
"Don't imagine for one second that I just blundered in here out of the rain."
DVD ReviewThe techno thriller has fallen into a fairly standard and predictable pattern—bad guy gets computer expert to hack into banking system, expert does the trick, bad guy is treacherous, expert messes with the bad guy, explosions ensue, roll endless credits. To some extent, Firewall falls into that same paradigm, but it differs from such brainless pictures as Swordfish in that the characters are well-developed and the viewer actually cares what happens to the hero. Of course, having Harrison Ford in the lead doesn't hurt.
Ford stars as Jack Stanfield, the IT specialist for a Seattle bank that has been recently taken over in a merger. He's led to believe that Bill Redmond (Paul Bettany) is offering him a position in a bank security outfit, but in fact Bill is Bill Cox, the mastermind of a scheme to kidnap his wife Beth (Virginia Madsen), and kids Sarah (Carly Schroeder) and Andy (Jimmy Bennett), and coerce Jack into looting $100 million from the bank. Using copious amounts of information he's compiled on the family, Bill cuts Jack off from anyone who might be able to help him and stays a step ahead of him all the way. Unfortunately for Bill, the maintenance terminals that his plan depends upon were taken out as a result of the merger, and Bill demands that Jack find another way to transfer the funds, or watch his family be murdered.
While the basic outline is pedestrian, this picture does have a lot of heart to it; Jack and Beth feel like real people, more or less. They credibly care about each other and Ford and Madsen make us care about them and the children as well. The exploitation of threats to children is kept in the background, though it is trotted out as a possibility now and again in order to keep Jack working according to plan. Except for a brutal hand-to-hand fight at the finale, Ford isn't called upon to be in action hero mode, helping to keep his character in a position where he can connect with the audience. In essence, he's a regular guy who is in extreme circumstances, which usually makes for good storytelling.
One of the intriguing points is how the things that the Stanfields rely upon to protect them are either useless or are turned against them. The crooks take control of their security system and use it to keep them trapped in the house; their cellphones, cloned, are used to keep tabs on them, and their gun ends up being used to frame Jack for murder. Even the family dog nearly gets them killed (though it ends up being helpful in an unexpected way). This tactic helps keep the viewer off balance and makes the horror of home invasion and identity theft even more powerful.
Cybercrime movies usually feature plenty of glitzy graphics and improbable access through firewalls and computer security systems. The computers here, on the other hand, are quite prosaic (as per standard offices, they run on Windows) and the graphics are decidedly unflashy for the most part, keeping a level of verisimilitude usually lacking in such pictures. The suspense level is ratched up to quite a height once the invasion of the Stanfields' home occurs, and it really never lets up after that. There are a couple of plot holes that raise questions—Robert Patrick, playing a security officer from the acquiring bank, demands the police be called to arrest Jack, but they never seem to show up. In fact, Patrick rather unaccountably drops out of the picture altogether at that point, making one wonder if there isn't a deleted scene lying about somwhere. There are a couple little McGyver moments that make one turn a jaundiced eye as well. But these are quibbles. One of the better pictures of its kind, it deserved better than the fairly dismal box office it did on theatrical release. Perhaps it will gain a better following on disc.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: The combo disc features the HD version on one side and the standard definition version on the other. The HD version has a ton of detail, and very little noticeable artifacting or ringing of any kind. Color definition, shadow detail, texture are excellent. There aren't a lot of "wow" moments, but it's quite competently mastered.
The standard definition side is also excellent, though understandably quite a bit softer than the HD version. Grain also tends to be quite sparkly on the SD version in comparison to the HD side, which is quite smoothly rendered. Both source masters are, as one would expect, pristine.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 Dolby Digital+ track and the standard 5.1 on the SD side both have excellent impact and range. The constant Seattle rain is quite enveloping and often helps reinforce the claustrophobia of the story. Alexandre Desplat's driving score has extreme range, solid bass, and good texture. There's nothing to complain about here.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Superman Returns, Lady in the Water
Extras Review: Firewall Decoded is a chatty 15m:25s discussion with director Richard Loncraine and Harrison Ford, touching on the difficulties of keeping the story believable as well as visually interesting. There are some high-level discussions of matters such as instinctive decisions as opposed to the conscious mind, but they draw back from utter pretension as they near the brink. They touch on the studio's concern with holes in the shooting script with some entertaining stories as well. In Firewall: Writing a Thriller, writer Joe Forte discusses the influence of 9/11 on his thinking as well as his idea to ask a Mossad friend to arrange for him to be kidnaped in order to get into the proper frame of mind. It's tantalizing but all too brief at 3m:16s. Finally, there's a theatrical trailer. All of the extras are in standard definition (and are placed on the SD side, so they're not accessible from the HD version without flipping the disc).
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsA surprisingly effective thriller that plays upon fear of home invasion and identity theft to tighten the screws. The HD side looks flawless, but the standard side looks pretty good too.
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