History professor Michael Faraday (Jeff Bridges) lives with his son Grant (Spencer Treat Clark) in a suburb near Washington, D.C. Although he is dating Brooke Wolf (Hope Davis), his teaching assistant, he is still haunted by the tragic death of his wife, an FBI agent, in a shoot-out with a heavily armed family. In a course he teaches on urban terrorism, Faraday's distrust of the government and his paranoia about right wing conspiracies are both revealed.
After he rescues their son who is hurt in an accident, the history professor becomes friends with the Langs, his new neighbors from St. Louis. Oliver (Tim Robbins) is an architect, and his wife (Joan Cusack) looks after their three children. When Faraday discovers that his neighbor has told some lies about his past, he begins to suspect his involvement in a terrorist bombing incident in St. Louis. Eventually, these secret investigations put his son and girlfriend in jeopardy. By then not even the counsel of Whit Carver (Robert Gossett), his deceased wife's FBI partner, can pull Faraday out of harm's way.
With the Oklahoma City and World Trade bombings still hovering in the back of our consciousness, this gripping political thriller directed by Mark Pellington and written by Ehren Kruger provocatively poses some serious questions about the dangers of both domestic terrorism and the paranoia of citizens who see giant conspiracies afoot everywhere. Although Faraday and Lang come from opposite sides of the political spectrum, they share a scary propensity for seeing the world as clearly divided between good guys and bad guys. The tie that binds them together is a refusal to acknowledge their human imperfections. The shadow still falls across the American landscape even in sunny suburbs where tormented souls blame an enemy for all the injustices and miseries in the country.