Mercury Rising
Mercury Rising Poster
Film information

Directed by

Harold Becker

Produced by

Brian Grazer

Written by

Lawrence Konner
Mark Rosenthal

Music by

John Barry

Distributed by

Universal Pictures

Release Date(s)

April 3, 1998




$60 million

Gross Revenue

$93 million

Preceded by

N/A; Beginning of continuity

Followed by

S1E01 - Simon is NOT Home

"It's like a cross between Rain Man and WarGames..."
Miko Hughes in Watch the Mercury Rising
"Someone Knows Too Much..."

Mercury Rising is the 1998 action thriller film that served as the genesis of Mercury Rising: The Series, and starred Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin,
Miko Hughes, Chi McBride, and Kim Dickens. It was directed by Harold Becker and produced by Brian Grazer.

Plot Summary

It was thought to be impenetrable. Indecipherable by any computer on Earth. MERCURY was the ultimate super-code, until it was deciphered - by a nine year-old autistic savant named Simon Lynch. He can read it easier than others read the English language. Simon is now deemed a threat by the NSA's Lt. Colonel Nicholas Kudrow, who sends out hit-men to eliminate him. However, Simon has some luck on his side, as FBI Special Agent Art Jeffries befriends the boy and defends him from Kudrow's hit-men. Now, Kudrow and his men will have to go through Jeffries if they want Simon, something that by far will not be easy for them to accomplish...


James Halstrom dies

James Halstrom dies as Jeffries attempts to save him.

The movie opens in the rural town of Sturgis, South Dakota, where a hostage crisis is being played out at a bank near the center of town. Anti-government radical Edgar Halstrom (Richard Riehle) and his militia group have seized the bank in defiance of the federal government and the FBI has surrounded the building, ready to storm it practically on a hair trigger. Working within the bank and Halstrom's group, FBI Special Agent Art Jeffries (Bruce Willis) manages to convince Halstrom through his son James (Chad Lindberg) to surrender, and is within seconds of doing so when the SWAT team storms the building and kills everyone but the hostages and Jeffries, including Halstrom, his oldest son Isaac (Hank Harris), Halstrom's brother Karl, and James, the latter of which by a perhaps overeager SWAT agent - James then dies in Jeffries' arms. Furious, Jeffries stalks outside and roughs up the operational supervisor and Richmond, Virginia A-SAC John Hartley (John Doman) before striking him with a bloody fist and spitting at his feet in disgust.

In Chicago just over a week later, at the city's neuropsychiatric learning center, Dr. Samantha London (Camryn Manheim) presents autistic nine year-old Simon Lynch (Miko Hughes) with a puzzle magazine, something he likes and knows is "...very, very special." Meanwhile, Jeffries has arrived back at the city field office and is quick to be reprimanded by his boss and local SAC Joe Lomax (Kevin Conway) for his actions against Hartley in Sturgis. Atop a psychologist's diagnosis of delusional paranoia, Lomax reassigns him to seemingly menial stakeouts with rookies and public relations work, - even after arguing with Jeffries' best friend and A-SAC Tommy Jordan (Chi McBride) - something Jeffries greatly laments after fourteen years of back-breaking undercover work. Simon is now at home with his mother Jenny (Kelly Hazen) and has begun to work on the puzzle magazine Dr. London gave him earlier. He opens it to Page 99 to find a puzzle the likes of which he has never before seen and triggers a primal ability buried within his mind - one that unravels the gibberish of symbols on the page into a phone number, which he proceeds to call.
Forever changed 2

This is the point at which his life was never the same again...

This number leads to the 'Puzzle Center' at NSA's Division, watched over by analysts Leo Pedranski (Bodhi Pine Elfman) and Dean Crandell (Robert Stanton). Pedranski is on duty when the call comes through and Simon tells him that he solved Puzzle Ninety-Nine, which contains a top-secret communications code named MERCURY - something no one was ever supposed to know. Pedranski panics and informs Crandell, who insists on informing their boss, Lt. Colonel Nicholas Kudrow (Alec Baldwin) of the 'security breach', knowing that Kudrow would say they had tried to hide it. At a briefing in Bangkok when the message arrives, Kudrow immediately prepares to leave and return to the US. At the same time, back in Chicago, Simon's father Martin (John Carroll Lynch) returns from work and rocks Simon to sleep in the boy's favorite rocking chair. Martin then lays his son in bed, not knowing that this is one of the last times he will do so.

Kudrow soon arrives back at Division early the next day, his attitude grim and cold. He calls a meeting with Pedranski and Crandell, who learn of the true nature of their mystery caller from him as he explains his point of view, believing Simon's condition to be one of 'diminished capacity'. This is quickly explained to Kudrow by Crandell as Simon being a savant and that he "...just saw it [the code]." Kudrow then proceeds to intimidate the analysts into believing his point of view that Simon's unique ability was more of a liability and didn't solve the potential for a security breach to a foreign government which he now believes all too likely. He then orders them to erase the recording of Pedranski's conversation with the boy and that Simon himself be eliminated to seal the impending security leak. The next day, (June 7) Kudrow's assassin Peter Burrell (L.L. Ginter) arrives at the Lynch home posing as a Chicago Police detective and kills both Martin and Jenny with single shots each from a silenced H&K P7 before searching for his real target: Simon. Burrell fails to find the boy, and frustrated, flees at the sound of approaching emergency sirens prompted by Martin's last-breath attempt to call 911, but not before placing the gun in Martin's hand (silencer removed), setting it up to look like a murder-suicide. Before the emergency vehicles arrive, Burrell escapes through the alley behind the home in an SUV driven by Shayes.

Now resigned to his new position, Jeffries is staked out with a junior agent listening in on bettors placing stakes on an upcoming Cubs game. Jeffries soon receives a phone call from Tommy, informing him of the Lynch murder-suicide and that Lomax is ordering him to investigate "...a possible missing child". He arrives at the Lynch home an hour or so later to find Chicago PD swarming around the house, news-channel crews, and a huge crowd of neighbors across the street gawking, not used to this type of attention in the usually quiet suburb. Jeffries enters to find an old friend, CPD Detective Jack Nichols (Jack Conley) in charge of the crime scene, kneeling over Martin Lynch's prostrate body as forensics photographs it. The two briefly enter the kitchen, also filled with investigators, to look over Jenny Lynch's body, Jeffries observing the scene. Nichols finally informs him about the kid, (Simon) remarking, "Neighbors say he's retarded," to which Jeffries grimly replies "Guys that kill their families kill all of them." Nichols reaffirms what he thinks to be the obvious - a murder-suicide - remarking that the working-class Martin may have killed Simon somewhere else and that he simply tired of caring and paying for his handicapped son, but Jeffries leaves Nichols in doubt after remarking "How's a guy that's so broke afford a $1500 handgun?" Borrowing Nichols' cell phone, Jeffries heads upstairs to look around for himself and enters Simon's room, briefly sifting through the boy's backpack before using the borrowed phone to call Lomax. Before he even finishes entering the number, Jeffries hears an odd noise accompanying the dial tone, and puzzled, peers around the room and behind the toppled bed mattress, looking for the source. Jeffries continues dialing random digits until finally locating the source - the closet - where he locates and opens a previously hidden crawl space in the side wall, a petrified and confused Simon inside. After a failed attempt to coax the terrified boy out, Jeffries gently removes Simon, who proceeds to flail and scream, and in trying to calm him, Jeffries awkwardly and quickly lowers the whimpering boy back to the floor. At this point, Nichols rushes up the stairs and into the room to investigate the commotion and astonished, he first looks to Simon and then to Jeffries, who, tossing the usused phone back, tells him to call for an ambulance from the nearby Concordia Hospital as well as a police guard for Simon, wanting him protected. Throughout the whole exchange, Simon nervously plays with his Connect Four set. A short time later, now in an ambulance en-route to Concordia, a flailing and yelling Simon struggles against a medic attempting to restrain the boy on his gurney. Jeffries stops the medic and partly unstraps Simon, who cries out "Mommy, Daddy!" multiple times, to which Jeffries orders the siren off. He then takes Simon's cards in hand and tries to be friendly with him, telling the frightened boy that he is a friend too, at which point Simon knocks the cards away and screams "Art is a stranger!" almost vehemently. Later, at the hospital, Jeffries watches as a nurse sedates the still-nervous Simon and inquires of her, asking why she only gave him a sedative. In response to Jeffries' query, the nurse explains autism to him, that Simon "...has trouble with feelings and emotions - so he gets very frightened and confused." Dumbfounded, and told that he wouldn't be able to question the boy as a result of his handicap, Jeffries leaves the isolation wing, and on his way out, passes a CPD officer assigned to watch over the boy.

As Jeffries mulls over the situation and Simon rests, Pedranski and Crandell travel into Washington, D.C. to meet at Rock Creek Park with Kudrow, where he again intimidates the analysts - especially the sheepish Pedranksi - initially by allowing his German shepherd to attack Crandell's car. Pedranski, already concerned about Kudrow's intentions for them, warily advances from the car with Crandell and into pouring rain, quickly reaching a small shelter where Kudrow appears to have been waiting for some time. He snaps open a copy of the Chicago Sun-Times and hands it to the two analysts, at which point they learn of the deaths of Martin and Jenny Lynch and Simon's survival, but also of the fact that "...somebody else knows" and suspects that something isn't right about the murders.
Rock Creek Park meeting

Kudrow meets in Rock Creek Park with Crandell and Pedranski.

It is at this point where Pedranski first questions Kudrow's judgment, stating frankly but timidly that they should tell somebody. Kudrow sharply answers by telling Pedranksi that they are that somebody, that they are ultimately responsible for the entire course of events and "there isn't anybody to tell." Kudrow then lays on their minds the sob story of an undercover operative named Rasheed Halabi, a colonel within the ranks of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard. He seems convince both Pedranski and Crandell that saving the lives of the thousands of other undercover men and women like Hallabi is more important than the life of one boy like Simon Lynch. He ends their meeting by asking for the two analysts to pledge their "Diligence, loyalty, and above all, absolute silence" on the entire matter - Pedranski and Crandell seem to reluctantly agree, despite the nagging moral dilemna they're presented with. The only reason that they agree at all is the significant intimidation Kudrow continues to press on them, not because they believe his argument.

Back in Chicago, Jeffries continues to mull into the night at his apartment and has a flashback of James Halstrom's death as he absently watches Letterman on TV. Restless and unable to sleep, Jeffries walks to a nearby bar for a few drinks to drown his sorrows, but ends up looking at Simon's card ring instead. He soon returns to Concordia to check up on Simon, but finds the floor where the boy was nearly empty, and is informed by the duty nurse that Simon was moved to the Pediatrics wing of the hospital, one floor above. Jeffries asks who authorized the transfer, and is told that Martin and Jenny did. Knowing better, Jeffries races to the 11th floor, into Pediatrics, and finally to Room 1106, where Simon was transferred to. Two other sleeping kids occupy the room, but Jeffries finds no Simon there, merely an empty bed with crumpled blankets and the boy's few personal effects lying on a tray table. An apparently curious doctor enters the room and inquires if Jeffries needs any help, to which Jeffries asks where Simon is. The doctor tells him that Simon suffered a minor head injury earlier and had to be taken to X-ray on the 7th floor, at which point Jeffries leaves the room and heads to X-ray, while the doctor turns in Jeffries' direction - it's Burrell. As Jeffries sprints down the stairwell to the 7th floor, Burrell begins searching nearby rooms for Simon, not knowing where he is, either. Upon reaching the deserted Radiology wing, Jeffries discovers Burrell's deception and quickly returns to the 11th floor, where he begins searching through rooms as well. Reaching one of the last rooms Burrell searched, Jeffries almost leaves before he spies Simon's reflection in the room window and jogs inside to find the boy lying awake but prone on the floor. In a near-repeat of when they first met earlier that day, Jeffries grabs Simon from the floor, at which point the autistic begins flailing and screaming incessantly. The struggling boy is more than a handful for Jeffries, as he bites, kicks, and screams at the FBI agent to no avail. Finally releasing his wriggling charge, Jeffries herds the boy into a nearby elevator, already occupied by a nurse, doctor's assistant, and comatose patient on a gurney that takes up nearly half the car. Just as the doors start to close, Burrell makes an unexpected appearance and forces his way through the doors, making it inside just as they do close and the elevator begins its descent. From there to the ground floor, Simon counts off the floor numbers one-by-one, making Jeffries' attempt to conceal the boy futile. Upon reaching the ground floor, Jeffries backs out the elevator, again attempting to conceal Simon, but he is quickly pursued by Burrell, who forces his way past the nurse and patient. Forced to pick up Simon again, Jeffries carries him under one arm while he draws his service pistol and fires on Burrell, who ducks behind a corner, narrowly avoiding the gunfire. Simon's protests grow louder, his screaming and kicking reaching a fever pitch as they exit the hospital with Jeffries proceeding to commandeer an ambulance and hoisting Simon into the passenger seat. Jeffries guns the ambulance and peels out of the parking lot as Burrell exits the hospital, forcing his way past a pair of medics, watching in obvious frustration as the ambulance speeds away.

A short time later, still in the ambulance, Jeffries and Simon are fleeing down the Kennedy Expressway. Not wanting to attract unneeded attention, Jeffries fights with Simon as the boy fiddles around with the ambulance sirens, frustrating him so much he even curses at Simon before he tries a gentler approach, to which the boy finally complies.
Simon wanders onto the tracks

Simon wanders onto the O'Hare "L" Blue Line tracks.

Seconds later, as the SUV containing Burrell and Shayes pulls alongside the ambulance, Jeffries takes quick notice and ducks Simon's head just as Burrell takes two shots at them, shattering the front windows and forcing Jeffries to duck and briefly lose control of the ambulance as well. As Burrell and Shayes' SUV speeds away, Jeffries attempts to regain control of the ambulance, careening it through traffic and eventually crashing it into the highway barrier spearating them from the "L" Blue Line tracks. With Simon now an emotional wreck, Jeffries, with some difficulty, manages to remove the screaming and flailing boy from the ambulance and set him atop the highway barrier and jump over the fence himself. Jeffries now proceeds to drag Simon over and to the ground behind the barrier while trying to shield him from any further attacks. He leaves the boy to make sure Burrell's SUV is gone, and while doing so, Simon wanders away and onto the tracks - into the path of an oncoming train. Panicking, Jeffries races toward the oncoming train and the wayward Simon just as the train's conductor takes notice and panicks as well, inaudibly yelling for Jeffries to move aside. Seconds before Simon would have been hit by the train, Jeffries tackles the boy and shields him from the train just as a second train comes barreling down the tracks on the other side, temporarily trapping them. After both trains pass, the first grinds to a halt and a crewman leans out to investigate, at which point a shaken Jeffries escorts an equally - if not more so - shaken Simon aboard the train. A short while later, as Jeffries catches his breath and Simon studies a map of the "L" CTA system, the train stops at a nearby station, where several passengers embark, including Shayes. As the train makes its way from the station and down the tracks, Jeffries again studies Simon's card ring and his small list of friends, the boy's bus driver - Pasquale - among them. Jeffries attempts to convince a timid Simon that he is his friend too, but the boy screams "Art is a stranger!" again and slams himself into the seat in an emotional fit as Shayes slowly makes his way through the train and toward the two. Just as Shayes sights Simon in the next car, he makes his way toward the unsuspecting boy but while passing between the cars, is ambushed by Jeffries, who initially appears to have the upper hand. However Shayes quickly kicks Jeffries in the face and knocks him into a nearby window, cracking it and gashing Jeffries' head in the process, landing multiple blows to his jaw, now seeming the gain the advantage against the FBI agent. But in a rapid and unexpected move, Jeffries dodges a blow from Shayes, grips the man's shoulder and throws him from the train onto the opposite track just as yet another train roars by, instantly killing Shayes. Cursing at the now-dead assassin, Jeffries makes his way back into the car to rejoin Simon, wincing at his injuries and wiping blood from his face.

They soon arrive at Tommy Jordan's house to rest, where Jeffries reunites with Tommy and his wife Dana and introduces her to Simon. Dana tries to be friendly to the boy and introduces her son TJ, but when she suggests going into the kitchen to eat and reaches out to Simon for him to follow, he jerks away and continues at spinning the wheel of a toy truck. Dana and TJ go anyway, and Simon follows shortly after. A short time later, while Simon and TJ eat out in the dining room, Dana brings Simon a set of TJ's clothes to wear (namely the red jacket that would later become Simon's trademark of sorts and a White Sox t-shirt). Back in the kitchen, Jeffries downs some more pills just as Tommy returns from a conversation with the city CTA with the news that the "L" tracks on the Blue Line are clean - "No body, no blood, no casing, nothing." Jeffries wonders aloud who could have cleaned everything up so fast, but Tommy seems to ignore him and tries talking common sense into him, trying to convince Jeffries to give up and take Simon back, to which Jeffries reminds Tommy that Simon is essentially homeless. He then guilts Tommy into borrowing his car after sarcastically remarking if he wanted Jeffries and Simon to "...just walk around the streets...". Some time later, they stop under a railroad viaduct and out of the rain for the night, during which time Jeffries falls asleep, suffering flashbacks of James Halstrom's death yet again. When he wakes the next morning, Simon is gone, the passenger door wide open.

To be continued...


Memorable Quotes

  • Simon (repeated line) - "Art is a stranger!"

While driving through DC.

  • Leo - "Why are we doing this, Dean? Why does he want to see us way out there?! We - We didn't do anything wrong, right?"
  • Dean - "Should I turn around?"
  • Leo - "No. He'd kill us."
  • Dean - "Well, he might kill us anyway."
  • Leo - "You being serious?!"
  • Dean - "Relax, Leo. Please."

In the coffee shop, after Jeffries leaves.

  • Stacey - "Would have done it without the flattery."


  • The action-thriller novel Simple Simon by Ryne Douglas Pearson served as the basis for Mercury Rising, and despite multiple story elements differing between the two, the movie still retained the core details that make it highly reputable by the few loyal fans it has made over the years since the premiere in April 1998.
  • Despite making less than $100 million at the box office worldwide [1] (only $32 million in the United States), it still retains a following of fans over the years, even to this day.
  • The film was released on Blu-ray on September 14, 2010[2], more than twelve years after the theatrical release.
  • At least three drafts of the film were made in 1996 alone, all titled Simple Simon, after the book. These seem to blend the book's plot with that of the final movie, with characters such as Art Jefferson, Mike Fiorello, Bizzi Jordan, Dean Andrews, Jean Lynch, and Stacia Sebring present.

See Also


Mercury Rising The Series
Media: Mercury RisingThe Series: Season 1The Series: Season 2The Series: Season 3The Series: Season 4Mercury Rising: 9/11The Series: Season 5
The Series: Season 6Mercury Rising: 2003Mercury Rising: CountdownMercury Rising: ShockwaveMercury Rising: DoomsdayThe Series: Season 7The Series: Season 8

Main Characters: Art JeffriesSimon LynchTommy JordanPeter LynchStacey SiebringRobert DonaldsonJames Striker • Simone Jeffries • Conner Jameson • Amber • Tom Davis • Charlie Daniels

Recurring: Joe LomaxRukaskiRob LomaxJohn BurrellAndrew RiddWill PattersonJesse LynchJake LynchChas OhlmeyerTJ JordanMike JamesDana Jordan
Angelo Breem