Firewall by Vicky Luzón

Firewall: He's done it again.
Firewall (Richard Loncraine, 2005).
By Vicky Luzón.

It’s Friday night and I’m at the cinema with a couple of friends. I am about to watch the latest Harrison Ford film and all I can think about is the small number of spectators in the room. This is surprising as this film is currently number two at the Spanish box office. I also notice that even though I am in my mid-thirties everybody around me is older than myself. Not a single teenager or twenty-something in sight. Does this mean that Harrison Ford’s constituency is growing old with him and he’s failing to attract the younger generations as he used to do in the past? Have those youngsters that still follow Lucas’s Star Wars franchise forgotten about Han Solo? Maybe.

Ford certainly does not try to hide his age in his new film and despite the high-tech display that features so importantly in it, CGI was not used to smooth over his wrinkles and make him look any younger. Meanwhile, he insists on performing all the stunts in his films, perhaps in an attempt to demonstrate that grey hair and a very noticeably sagging neck are just minor details to be ignored. In a way, this is a clear indication of the sexism that pervades Hollywood and that prevents actresses in their sixties from performing the same roles they were playing when they were young or middle-aged (if they got lucky). This does not seem to apply to Harrison Ford.

The problem is that he fails to convince. The once-voted “star of the century” insists on playing the same roles he was playing 15 years ago, but unlike the characters around him, it is only him that is ageing. In Firewall, he plays the father of an upmarket family, but he could just as easily have played their grandfather. Admittedly, Ford has young children himself, but it is the sheer repetition of his old, though very successful, trademark that makes the film so utterly predictable. A little bit of variation (à la Six Days and Seven Nights or What Lies Beneath) would not have come amiss.

Even though the film starts portraying a family that is not picture-perfect (his children argue loudly, his daughter refers to him as Jack, rather than dad, which suggests there is distance between them), then we hear his architect wife say that her real hobby and favourite pastime is purely “looking after him”. Even though I was not the only one at the cinema to cringe at this corny comment I still hoped that things would change, even if just a little, and that this latest of all fictional Ford families would be less than perfect, or if it had to be, that the family would play a more active role in the development of the plot. All my hopes were disappointed. Virginia Madsen’s underused character appears to have some initiative but at the end of the day it is always dad that saves the day.

In some of his films of the 1990s, Ford had continued to play the (ageing) hero, but these films contained a lot of tongue-in-cheek references and moments that allowed the spectator to partly read his roles as a parody of his fictional persona. Unfortunately, this is no the case in Firewall, where we are expected to take everything seriously and side with the no-nonsense hero at all times.

A final interesting feature about the film is its thorough display of modern technology, but even this fails to make the story any more attractive or up-to-date. The protagonist’s mastery of modern technology (high-resolution mobile phones, GPS devices, laptops, Mp3s and so on) is what allows him to overcome all the obstacles and rescue his family, but unfortunately all of this fails to ring true. Unless one is willing to suspend all disbelief and imagine that the whole of Seattle and its surrounding area are a wi-fi zone, one cannot really carry on believing what is going on. How can he connect to the Internet in the middle of nowhere? When the technological twist is rendered unbelievable, the rest of the story suffers from it. This technology is too good to be true, even in the hands of Harrison Ford. Or maybe that is the problem. Had it been in the hands of somebody else, the super-duper technological gloss would have saved the film’s day.


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