RUNNING ON EMPTY

Sidney Lumet takes elements which would be right at home in a tense, tightly-wound thriller and brings them (via a wonderful screenplay by Naomi Foner) into a tense, astonishingly thoughtful domestic drama. River Phoenix stars as Danny Pope, the almost-college-age son of Arthur and Annie Pope (Christine Lahti and Judd Hirsch, both terrific here), a couple of former revolutionaries in hiding after their 1971 bombing of a U.S. Military napalm factory during the Vietnam War. Upon relocating once again (to suburban New Jersey this time), the Popes change their names and dispense with their past. Danny, understandably, falls for his music teacher’s black sheep of a daughter (Martha Plimpton), and wants to stop running. Lumet directs with subtlety and grace, allowing the script and the cast to do the heavy lifting – and they all make it look effortless. Affecting and powerful stuff to rank with Lumet’s very best!

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