Jack Stanfield (Harrison Ford) is a security expert forced to steal money from the bank he is paid to protect when his family is held hostage by a gang of thieves. Firewall, put simply, is Harrison Ford’s 1997 actioner Air Force One with different settings.
Ford is again cast as a loving father whose family is held hostage by a sinister group of terrorists/thieves and his character is then forced into a series of confrontations with the mastermind of the group until the final showdown. A showdown which he wins (I haven’t spoiled anything; you know what’s going to happen). The only major difference between this film and Air Force One is the fact that Ford is nine years older. He still pulls off the role but as the film begins you’ll question the believability of his age in relation to the ages of his wife and kids. I did. The filmmakers, however, aren’t stupid and neither are they oblivious to the grey on Ford’s head so this is quickly resolved with a reveal: Ford’s wife was married before her marriage to his character.
The reason I raise the issue of Ford’s age is because it would seem to be the only thing about him as a performer, in the action genre at least, that has changed over the years. As the American President in Air Force One Ford’s character was strong and determined, in Firewall his character again is strong and determined. The characters he plays in these action films are as predictable, and by the book, as the plots in which they feature. Jack is a super dad from the start of the film, not flawed in any way, and as a result there is no room for character development. It would’ve have been perfect – at the age of 64 – to introduce a little more vulnerability. Sadly, this isn’t the case.
Firewall also plays it safe when it comes to the villains in the film. Sure, they’re evil and Paul Bettany does a good job as their leader but they’re just too darn nice. They repeatedly threaten to do nasty things to Jack’s wife and kids but never do; even when Jack has disobeyed their orders they simply continue to threaten. If they had been men of action instead of men of words then Firewall would have been a lot more interesting to watch. Killing off one of the kids would’ve certainly upped the intensity of the film, it probably would’ve upped the age restriction too but I reckon it would have been worth it. These baddies have no balls.
Firewall does get better as it progresses. When Jack enlists the help of his secretary (Mary Lynn Rajskub, 24’s Chloe O’Brien) – and they have to push-start her car in order to find Jack’s family – the film shakes off some of the slick, rigid formula it has been coated in. As a result it becomes more enjoyable (watch out for the hilarious sequence where they find the family dog) and the character of Jack becomes more human. It’s a pity this happens so late though.
Firewall is standard action fare that is not the worst way to spend your time but neither is it the most rewarding cinema experience you’ll ever have. Harrison Ford does his action movie ‘thing’ and the film is gripping in areas but, ultimately, it’s routinely predictable.