Jeff Bridges movie where he plays a history professor who teaches a class on domestic terrorism and Tim Robbins plays the terrorist across the street.
That short description is pretty much given away in the previews. I guess the movie is supposed to be about a fairly normal guy who slowly comes to realize that his neighbor is a terrorist. But since the audience knows for sure right from the beginning, it's really hard to follow along with the main character's starts and stops along the way. At a few different points his girlfriend, his FBI buddy and even Tim Robbins himself convince him that he's being paranoid. And then rather than drop the issue, Bridges follows up on another piece of evidence and convinces himself that Robbins is a terrorist all over again. Even after they kidnap Bridges' son and he acts like he's backing off one last time, they show him going to great lengths to continue his investigation.
Mixed in with all of this is a very liberal diatribe against the FBI. They describe a fictitious confrontation based on Ruby Ridge. I don't know the details of Ruby Ridge, so I can't say how closely they followed it. Another fictitious event they portrayed was based on the Oklahoma City bombing, and they changed important details there to fit their story. So I'm not sure how much of the Ruby Ridge incident was changed for the story and how much was changed to portray the FBI in a bad light. Because they really make the FBI look bad. They imply that they do only superficial investigation and are full of trigger-happy agents.
Joan Cusack had a small part as Robbins' wife. She really didn't have a lot to do and didn't put much into her performance. She had a few scenes where she came in at the end and just smiled until Bridges turned away and then went expressionless. It came across flat.
There was one piece that doesn't make sense to me. Near the end, we follow Bridges' girlfriend (who is hot, BTW) as she discovers some information about Robbins. And then at the end, someone I think is her provides some false information in TV interviews. If that last bit is true then it makes absolutely no sense.
They show pieces of a very large organization behind the bombings. But they don't go into their motives at all. It doesn't make sense for that many intelligent and motivated people to resort to terrorism over a long period of time without many of them having a morality attack and turning on the rest, unless there's something profound to hold them all together.
So there are several problems with this movie that kept gnawing at me as I watched.
They did use an interesting twist in the big finale. I think that's what sold this movie to Hollyweird. I don't think the producers cared about the rest of the story.
On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, Cable with Popcorn and Drinks. An interesting twist at the end, but it was the capper on a contrived script.
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