Making the Grades
It's been a while since Harrison Ford sped through the galaxy as Han Solo in the early Star Wars films or cracked a whip as Indiana Jones. Still, graying hairs and well-defined wrinkles aren't keeping the aging actor from remaining a force in the movie industry.
In Firewall, Ford plays Jack Stanfield, the vice president of high-level security at the Landrock Pacific Bank. For twenty years, he's stayed off hackers and other fraudulent schemes aimed at theft. A man of precision and caution, he doesn't take unnecessary risks. He lives with his wife Beth (Virginia Madsen, an actress 21 years Ford's junior) and his children Sarah (Carly Schroeder) and Andrew (Jimmy Bennett) on an ocean front property in Seattle.
Without their knowing, the Stanfields are being watched. High-tech surveillance equipment and regular routing in the garbage have allowed Bill Cox (Paul Bettany) and his thugs to learn a lot about the family--enough to give the film's baddies the upper hand when they barge into the house and take Beth and the kids hostage.
Installing cameras and computer systems to keep Jack and his family under constant observation, Bill demands the V.P. use his software expertise to help the thieves steal millions of dollars from the accounts of wealthy clients. With his offspring held for ransom, the bank officer doesn't have much choice but to comply.
However as the criminals' plan develops, Jack realizes he is being set up as the fall guy for embezzlement and murder. It's then the computer wizard puts down his mouse in favor of more hands-on retribution.
Using a kitchen appliance to dispose of one captor and a pickax to kill off another, Jack's retaliation tactics are equally as violent as the kidnappers who routinely shoot underperforming members of the group and batter their captives with fists and guns. With cool indifference, Bill feeds a nut-laced cookie to their son Andrew, causing an episode of anaphylactic shock and leaving Jack and Beth begging him for the return of the antidote.
The gratuitous and often graphic violence along with the use of an extreme sexual expletive and hand gesture strains the PG-13 guidelines. The unremitting tension and bloody, action-packed scenes also push the film's suitability for family audiences way out of bounds.
Highlighting the unethical spying tactics of the crooks, the script plays on society's obsession with individual and family safety. With their home security measures breached, the Stanfields are left unprotected in the hands of the hostage takers who modify the alarm system and cell phones to work in their favor. In an era of heightened sensitivity, those kinds of compromises may leave many viewers anxious to hurry home and update the features on their own firewall.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Firewall.
What measures does Jack take to protect his family? How do the thieves break into them? What security devices are most important to protect your personal identity?
Do screenplays like this one add to the amount of fear in our society?