Harrison Ford is one of those great Hollywood superstars who has made his name playing everyman hero roles in dozens of action/adventures and thrillers over the last three decades. From the early stardom he found as Hans Solo in the original Star Wars thrillers, through his trials as adventurer Indiana Jones to his performances as Jack Ryan in the intellectual Tom Clancy thrillers Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Each time he takes a role he makes it his own. However, over the last few years - potentially his twilight years in Hollywood - he has made some debatable movie choices, not least the lacklustre buddy-buddy action-comedy Hollywood Homicide. His slowly flagging career has resulted in him having to return to what he knows best - Indiana Jones - but until that happy day we will have to see with what else he can come up with.
When I first heard about it, I was a little bit worried about his latest thriller - Firewall. After all, the I.T. industry does not exactly make for wildly thrilling storylines. Anybody even slightly involved with computers is likely to know the reality and it's a long way away from what we see in the movies. Swordfish tried to glamorise software experts to the extreme, with one scene that had Hugh Jackman standing up, coding in front of six flat-screen monitors, slugging down red wine and flipping between cries of anger and elation bordering on the famous café scene out of When Harry Met Sally. I genuinely hoped that Firewall did not resort to the same unbelievable depiction of this profession.
Jack Stanfield is the head of I.T. Security for a major bank. He's good at his job and he knows the bank inside out, making him a prime target for Bill Cox, a criminal mastermind who wants to get his hands on millions of dollars' worth of other people's money. Cox and his cohorts kidnap and hold Jack's family hostage, blackmailing him into entering the Bank's secure network and draining bank accounts for their benefit. When it becomes apparent that he may never get his family back - even if he does what the robbers want - Jack has to use his wits, his fists and his technological skills to take control and save them. (Be Warned, the trailer for this movie tells you much more and, although it is not a particularly original story, to tell you more would take some enjoyment out of the proceedings)
I should clarify at this point that despite my first doubts, Firewall is not an I.T. movie. It is not full of geeks and nerds and overly complicated techno-babble designed to confuse viewers into boredom. It does not unnecessarily glamorise computing. It is a standard, solid thriller about an average everyday family man who is put into an impossible situation and forced to turn the tables on seemingly insurmountable opponents. It is what Harrison Ford does all the time - and does well. Sure, that means that he barely has to break a sweat - at least in terms of acting - and the story is relatively predictable, but it is enjoyable nonetheless. It borrows from many movies before it - reminiscent of Hostage, Cellular and Panic Room, to name but a few recent efforts - but does a perfectly solid variation on the theme. You're not going to have an aneurism trying to follow the twists and turns, nor are you going to be left bored and unsatisfied.
As I've stated, this kind of role is what made Ford the superstar he is today. Admittedly he is in his sixties and certainly looks pretty old, but it is not a role that is beyond him - even the action scenes he does with the same aplomb he exhibited over ten years ago in Patriot Games. His opponent is played by our very own Paul Bettany (although the British villain was a cliché even before Die Hard), who does threatening quite well and has gained recent big-screen fame in the disappointing, lacklustre Da Vinci Code. Twin Peaks' Virginia Madsen plays the terrorised wife and mother, with all the requisite screaming and panicking and Mary Lynn Rajskub (the often irritating Chloe from 24) gets a solid supporting role as Jack's helpful assistant. Then we have noteworthy actors like Robert Forster (Jackie Brown), Robert Patrick (T2) and Alan Arkin (Grosse Point Blank) filling out some of the smaller, less important parts. Although not even close to being stretched in terms of acting, the cast all do their jobs well.
What everyone is really here for though is to see if Harrison Ford can still pull it off, especially with Indiana Jones IV looking timetabled for next year. The answer is clearly yes. As long as he doesn't try and do anything too unbelievable (Seagal's recent DTV efforts have seen his stunt double doing spinning kicks and the like - just about the most ludicrous thing I have ever seen), I think he should be fine. This movie has him suitably addressing his own age and, with a few more jokes about it, he should do just fine as Indy once again. Firewall is a reasonably clever, well orchestrated and very watchable thriller. It has plenty of tense sequences - reminiscent of the first season of 24 - and hits all the right buttons. It also marks the start of a return to form for Harrison Ford, an actor who many will want to see pull off a few more memorable movies before retirement. Recommended.