1999 Film Portending Today’s “Conspiracy-Fueled Climate”
Editor’s Note: Arlington Road was surely an uncommon Hollywood production in that it addressed “conspiratorial” subject matter, including false flag terror, blackmail by government agencies, the Patriot movement, and pedophilia, all in a not-so-thinly-veiled fashion. The film was developed in the shadow of Ruby Ridge, the Waco massacre, and the Murrah federal building bombing while also eerily anticipating the events of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent culture of paranoia and conspiracy the government response to those events helped shape. Arlington Road was also an artifact examined in James Tracy’s infamous Culture of Conspiracy class, which he taught as a tenured faculty member at Florida Atlantic University prior to being terminated for not reporting his protected speech to school officials posted on this personal blog .
(May 15, 2018)
Calling Arlington Road an unsung summer blockbuster admittedly stretches that category’s definition. A political thriller in the Parallax View mold, the film did get a wide release (in July 1999), but it was made for a relatively low budget and boasted decidedly mid-level stars: Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, and Hope Davis.
Nobody likely expected a box-office bonanza. Still, it underperformed even by that metric, finishing sixth on its opening weekend (even though the only other studio film to bow that week was American Pie), and received largely mixed reviews. In today’s conspiracy-fueled climate, the commercial and critical fate of a movie as deftly engineered and deeply cynical as this one might well be very different.
Bridges plays Michael Faraday, a history professor still mourning his late wife, who’d worked for the FBI and been killed in a Waco-style standoff. Seeking a playmate for his young son, Faraday is happy to meet new neighbors Oliver and Cheryl Lang (Robbins and Cusack), as they have a boy around the same age.
Soon, however, Faraday begins to suspect that this seemingly ordinary, exceedingly friendly couple is harboring some sort of dark secret. Some of the personal information they impart doesn’t check out, and as Faraday starts snooping around and keeping tabs, he discovers more and more discrepancies and inexplicable behavior. Eventually, he concludes that the Langs are homegrown terrorists plotting an attack.
4 thought on “Arlington Road”
The June Issue of Penn Magazine is now online …
Also HERE in Flip-Page Format:
The American Dream. It’s time to wake up. The bus is here, your toast is ready, the world is on fire …
You are not sleeping – it is daytime – you look out your window — robins, squirrels, wiener dog poop — fair to partly cloudy — it’s all a fairy tale.
You are inside a children’s book, with dragons and monsters and evil kings and queens.
You are a character inside someone else’s made-up book.
How did we come to this, my neighbor?
We have fake history, boys and girls.
Yes we do.
I never heard of this flick but I am going to find it. Hoping someone will link me to a free version, xfinity likes to charge $13 for pretty obscure movies like this. Unless it’s the sports scores, I automatically doubt the News is accurate about anything serious like the Sante FE, TX shooting du jour . It won’t be about dissecting the event so much as what needs to be done to stop the next one. That part is predetermined but they frame it into a debate of talking heads that weren’t there. You’ll never see any real visual evidence of the crime, just people telling you it happened. They can show graphic depraved violence and murder on TV in HD all day long. But they won’t show real crime scene photos or surveillance video of any of these school/church/concert/movie/mall shootings. The powers that be want you to think there’s no place safe. Eventually you won’t go anywhere without a security shake down. Look at what they did to flying, now it’s baseball. I spent a half hour in a security line to watch Major League Baseball and missed a quarter of the game. Don’t buy the latest school shooting du jour on face value. Doubt everything you’re told.
I was right Arlington Road is $12.99 to own on Xfinity cable system., $3.99 to rent …kind of funny renting something you don’t physically have and owning something you can never touch. I pay $125 a month already and they want four bucks for a 20 year old movie? Crickie…
Ahoy! There be Spoilers ahead
Arlington Road may be a better movie than even the AV Club thinks it is. While I’m not sure about the writer, from the embedded video I would say that even the director has a limited view of his own film. It’s as if the villain of Arlington Road is so successful in manipulating public opinion that he reaches beyond the film, on to the film set and into the reviews. They seem not to realize that they themselves have succumbed to the false narrative perpetrated in the film.
The widespread criticism of this film is that there are too many coincidences. What the reviewers whooping it up over improbable coincidences fail to recognize is that what they are seeing is gangstalking. In the classic techniques of covert harassment employed in gangstalking, one objective is to make it sound unbelievable when the target recounts it.
Another big misconception shared by these opinion-makers is that they believe the villain to be a right-wing extremist. There is no organized right-wing extremist, anti-government group. The truth is no militia has the capability to carry out this kind of terrorist event and deftly palm it off on a patsy. Only intelligence services can do that. And behind his right-wing extremist persona, that’s who Tim Robbins’ Oliver Lang is.
Lang’s job is manipulating the broader public by producing government-engineered terror events, of the kind with which we are so sickeningly familiar, and for the same predatory reasons: to advance the security state and bring notoriety down on those with inconvenient political opinions. In this case, as it is now, critical opinion is deemed anti-government and branded with the scary right-wing extremist label.
The implacable amorality that is the mark of intelligence service behavior is evident in Lang and cemented in the Discoverers, a cub-scout type organization which doubles as a network for supplying children to be exploited in illicit transactions. In the first contrivance in his entrapment, the target Michael Faraday finds a stunned and bleeding child wandering in the road, and saves his life. The boy is Lang’s son. Or is he? Perhaps the boy was procured for the part. What kind of father arranges for a child to be injured?
This is a movie about fathers. Jeff Bridges’ character, Michael Faraday, is the good father. He has a son the same age as Lang’s, a coincidence, he thinks. But Faraday, a professor and used to reflection, does not dwell on the aspects of his character which will lead him on in the conspiracy and ultimately orphan his son.
Faraday, like the government, is only too willing to break the law, if the circumstances are exigent, the danger imminent. This is the mindset that justifies torture and preemptive war. Lang’s plan depends on Faraday’s eager ethical compromise. Faraday is too outraged about ethics to be ethical, he’s too convinced of the danger to avoid it. He rushes to it. He becomes it, as was the plan.
Faraday’s son is set up too. He’s released from the Discoverers to grow up with relatives, believing his father was a terrorist.
As the AV club mentions, the title, Arlington Road, is significant. Arlington Blvd. runs through Arlington, VA, which overlooks the Potomac and all of Washington, D.C. It’s the home of the star of the film, the FBI, as well as the Pentagon, up-coming star in the Theatre of 911.
Arlington itself is named for the stately home of General Robert E Lee, whose land was seized and occupied by the Federal Government when Lee refused to lead their army against the citizens of his own state. The Feds, to punish this anti-governmental stand, and to insult the hated soldier they called The Rebel, buried the dead right up to his door.
Perhaps the most poignant state crime backgrounding this film, though, is an assassination. Nowadays, Arlington Road wraps around Arlington National Cemetery, to encircle the burial site of JFK.