Harrison Ford's new film "Firewall" is excruciating in many ways: It's excruciating for his character Jack Stanfield, a Seattle banker, whose wife and children have been taken hostage by Paul Bettany's bank-robber character Bill Cox and his henchmen; it's excruciating for us in the audience, who have to watch a formulaic thriller without a hint of originality; it's even excruciating to watch the 63-year-old Ford try to run fast, as he must do from time to time in the movie. More than that, it's offensive that "Firewall" doesn't even bother to explain the computer intricacies that its plot depends on, trusting us to simply take them for granted, no doubt because we've seen the exact same thing so many times before, in dozens of other films. Wasn't there a grownup around, to stop it before it was too late?
I was thinking these thngs because the paperback edition of Roger Ebert's book "The Great Movies II" just came out, and I realized that I could have been reading Ebert's provocative essays about a hundred more films, to go with those he covered in his first "Great Movies" book, and each of which is infinitely more worth seeing than "Firewall." Instead, I was sitting at the theatre watching the unwatchable. That was excruciating, but here we go with a precis of the film.
Jack is the security director of a Seattle bank that's just been taken over by some unnamed national bank. A young man (Bettany) comes into his office one day and before we, or Jack, know it, his wife (Virginia Madsen, and we can only hope she was well paid for this job) and kids are hostages in their suburban home, not to be released until Jack hacks into the bank's biggest client accounts and removes money from them all and deposits it into Bettany's Cayman Islands account.
Does the evil Bettany succeed with this scheme? Does he torture the family and do bad things in general? Does Ford succeed in turning the tables on him? Does it take forever to get to the end of the movie? The answer to all those questions is yes, of course. If I were not a nice person I would have brought a little penlite to the theatre and read my copy of Mr. Ebert's book, but no doubt that would have offended those sitting nearby who apparently had no idea how the film would end. Instead, I recalled Mr. Bettany's brilliant nude performance as Geoffrey Chaucer in "A Knight's Tale." So should you.