A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film considers fears of surveillance, with characters showing both anxiety and ingenuity trying to avoid it. It includes multiple tense scenes, as well as violent scenes, both abrupt (as when the villains burst into the family's home and again when the chief villain whomps Jack across the face) and sustained (a prolonged, bruising, bloody fight scene at the end). References are made to online gambling and identity theft. The family's escape attempt appears in fast cuts and jarring images; a child who is allergic to nuts suffers an alarming, nearly fatal reaction. Villains brandish guns, and three men are shot on screen, upsetting other characters who observe. Characters use mild language and a villain's dumping of the family dog leads to the mom's and kids' tears.
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What's the story?
In FIREWALL, computer genius and bank security expert Jack (Harrison Ford) works for a Seattle bank, lives with his family in a gorgeous house designed by his architect wife Beth (Virginia Madsen), and worries a bit about new guy Gary's (Robert Patrick) idea that the bank shouldn't assume costs of fraud and hacking -- he wants to pass on costs to customers. Jack's own info is hacked by a crew of crooks, led by Bill Cox (Paul Bettany), who use it to break into his home, take his wife and kids hostage, and force him to transfer millions to their account. Bill has installed surveillance devices in Jack's home, car, and office. Though Jack tries initially to outsmart Bill, but when the bad guy harms his son, the concerned father moves the funds. Eventually Jack must retaliate, committing his own deceptions and acts of deadly violence. Though he doesn't get much help from boss (Alan Arkin) or his law enforcement veteran buddy Harry (Robert Forster), Jack does get support from his assistant Janet (Mary Lynn Rajskub).
Is it any good?
Though Firewall takes up the topical focus of fears of surveillance, it offers precious few new ideas. Once again, Harrison Ford must save his family from violent outlaws, grimacing and flailing as he discovers that "going along" only inspires the bad guys to do more damage. Lesson to be learned: You gotta fight back!
The surveillance cams all yield distressingly grainy fisheye-lens images designed to generate viewer tension. Mary Lynn Rajskub plays a variant of Chloe, her much beloved character on 24, splendidly. Her character's relationship with Jack -- slightly offbeat, based in Ford's signature vulnerability, as well as a trust born of necessity -- brings welcome freshness to an otherwise predictable plot.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the insecurity of online exchanges, of information, money, and identities. What does Jack's change from compliant victim to agitated hero suggest about the consequences of pushing "nice guys" to the edge? How must Jack give up some of his authority (at least until the film's climax), to prevail over his more predictable enemies?