Widower and history teacher Michael Faraday (Jeff Bridges) becomes suspicious of his neighbours (Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack) after he discovers they have a dark secret in their past. Could they have terrorist links, or is Michael seriously mistaken?
Mark Pellington's excessively paranoid and deeply pessimistic thriller was written by Ehren Kruger. Arlington Road wasn't a big hit, but it did have an undeniable impact with quite a few of the people that did see it. Most of that impact was down to its nasty surprise ending.
After an arresting pre-credits sequence, Pellington takes his time in building up the tension, gradually bringing the film closer and closer to a nightmare as Michael pieces together what he thinks is happening. The always reliable Bridges does a good job of turning the main character from an earnest, haunted academic into a wide-eyed, sweaty, hysterical maniac; Robbins and Cusack change from wholesome to creepy in the space of a few scenes.
There are echoes of the Oklahoma bombing and the tragedies at Ruby Ridge and Waco throughout the script. Family values are being subverted, you can't trust your neighbours and the government won't help - and may be making things worse.
Despite depicting a society that is collapsing in on itself, Arlington Road actually seems to be saying "keep your nose out of other people's business" rather than "be vigilant". But basically, this is a solid, exciting suspense movie with a twist in the tail. Listen for: music by Angelo Badalamenti and Tomandandy.