In MERCURY RISING, Bruce Willis plays an outcast FBI agent, Art Jeffries, a man haunted by a botched operation in which children were shot and killed needlessly. He is unfairly blamed and given a desk job. During a routine investigation of the disappearance of autistic child whose parents were found dead in their living room, Art senses the boy's in trouble. Smelling foul play and distrusting his agency, Jeffries finds the boy, takes him under his wing and ends up running from an unknown force out to kill the boy.
Although the movie opens in a bank robbery in which the desperate, crazed leader is depicted as a man who thinks he is following God, this movie is less offensive than most thrillers. At its core, the movie is about trust. Jeffries doesn't trust his superiors, his superiors don't trust him, and he and the autistic boy must learn how to trust one another in order to survive. MERCURY RISING is a taut thriller with an emotional bond at its core. While the movie is formulaic, the relationship between the boy and Jeffries is touching. The movie works only because we care about Jeffries and the boy, and the way they come to care about each other.
(H, Ab, L, VVV) Humanist worldview with some moral & some anti-biblical elements; 11 obscenities & 5 profanities; and, bloody shoot-out where 2 children are killed, autistic boy has parents murdered & is in constant danger, man hits boy, man punches man & several point blank murders.
Harold Becker directed this stylish and well-paced thriller whose heart is the relationship between an isolated boy and an isolated man. Although the movie opens in a bank robbery in which the desperate, crazed leader is depicted as a man who thinks he is following God, this movie is less offensive than most thrillers. At its core, the movie is about trust.
After the FBI comes recklessly into a bank shooting with barrels blazing, killing everyone, undercover FBI agent Art Jeffries, played by Bruce Willis, ends up taking the rap and is relegated to a lower position. Jeffries feels betrayed and is teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and he distrusts his superiors. They, in turn, don’t trust him, especially because an FBI psychologist has labeled him “paranoid.” Consequently, when Jeffries senses danger for a young autistic boy, the only choice he has is to go on the run to protect the boy’s life. The autistic boy, Simon, played adequately by Miko Hughes, doesn’t understand that his parents have been murdered and only remembers that he’s not to talk to strangers. Thus, Simon mistrusts the only man who seems willing to protect him.
Jeffries learns that Simon had decoded a puzzle in a magazine that was placed there by the National Security Administration. The NSA has developed an impenetrable code for communication in international espionage. The decoding of the message means that it is no longer infallible and, to preserve the perception that it is, Lt. Colonel Nicholas Kudrow, played by Alec Baldwin, orders Simon and his parents killed. Simon had, however, a secret hiding place in his room, which Jeffries uncovers when the action starts.
While MERCURY RISING is formulaic in its “man on the run to protect an innocent against a government gone wrong” plot, the relationship between Simon and Jeffries and the bond they end up forming is touching. The antagonist, Kudrow, is written as a one-note zealot who doesn’t care who has to die so long as his agenda is preserved. The movie works only because we care about Jeffries and Simon, and the way they come to care about each other.
To shore up the sense of impending danger, the screenwriters show how both the FBI and the NSA can shoot people first and ask questions later. Thus, when Jeffries and Simon are on the run, and Simon doesn’t understand what’s happening, the tension is palpable. Kim Dickens plays a stranger, Stacey, who helps Jeffries against her better judgment, similar to the 70s thriller starring Robert Redford, THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR. While MERCURY RISING is not as good as that film, it is a taut thriller with an emotional bond at its core.
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