Dr. Clifford W. Evans
HIST 213 - Z
20 November 2017
Review of the film, Arlington Road
Arlington Road (1999) stars Jeff Bridges as Michael Faraday, a history professor who becomes suspicious of his new neighbors, Oliver and Cheryl Lang. When Michael tells them that his wife, an FBI agent, was killed on duty, Oliver admits that he believes the government is never properly punished for its mistakes. While talking about his wife to his class, Michael expresses his frustration and anger, causing the students to feel uneasy. After some investigating, Michael discovers that Oliver tried to blow up a post office at the age of sixteen. Oliver says that he was only retaliating against the government after it seized his family’s water supply. Michael visits the father of Dean Scobee, who was accused of blowing a federal building in St. Louis, where the Langs moved from. Scobee’s father is convinced he was set up, which Michael confirms after seeing a photo of him in the same boy scout group as the Langs’ son. Shortly after this, Michael’s girlfriend coincidentally “gets into an accident” and dies. Oliver tells Michael that he and his group were responsible for St. Louis and warns him not to investigate anymore. Michael realizes that their group is planning on attacking the FBI headquarters, and goes on a car chase trying to stop them and warn the government. He illegally drives into the FBI parking lot, where he realizes that he is the only one there. The bomb, which was planted in his trunk, goes off, killing hundreds of government agents and civilians. On the news, Michael is reported as a lonewolf terrorist who sought revenge for his wife. Statements from his students support this story, as they recount his erratic behavior. The final scene shows the Langs’ plan to continue moving to new cities to pin their terrorist strikes on more fall guys like Faraday and Scobee.
This film is inspired by the conspiracy theories that emerged after the Oklahoma City Bombing of 1995, where two men were convicted of blowing up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing one hundred and sixty-eight and leaving six hundred injured. Because so many believed that there had to be more than two people involved in this, Arlington Road can be seen borrowing heavily from the conspiracy theories that “lonewolf” terrorists are never truly acting alone when they commit crimes such as these. The reason, according to these theories and the movie, that individuals are accepted as being the sole perpetrators is because it provides a “quick-fix,” a reason for us to stop thinking about it. Like Faraday tells his students, "We don't want others. We want one man, and we want him fast - it gives us our security back." Here, the film makes a statement on our need, as a society, to identify one person or even one, specific group as the suspect, in order for us to have closure. In the end, it boldly implies that it doesn’t rea...