Will we have political conspiracy movies in the Obama era? If government is now All Wise and Good, how can we possibly have shadowy cabals at the Highest Level, working to follow and/or kill charismatic young Hollywood leading actors?
Trust me: they’ll find a way. Let us look back in history for our examples. You may recall “Three Days of the Condor,” a high-water mark of high-70s paranoia. It was hardly unusual; in those days it was safely assumed that all major corporations had assassins on the payroll, for example. (Mercinaries loved to work for GlobalTechCorp, because they let you kill with impunity AND they had a great dental plan.) If I remember correctly – a Latin phrase that means “too lazy to Google” – Robert Redford had stumbled across plans to invade the Middle East and take their delicious, useful oil. By “plans” I mean contingency plans, the sort of thing you have around just in case.
Scandal! Of course, the Pentagon war-games everything, and no doubt they have plans for invading the Congo via Australia, or conquering Canada by turning the planet upside down and dumping Brazil on its head, should such technology become available. You want them to have plans, because if you find yourself suddenly needing to invade, oh, Iraq, you need to know how to get there, and whether you might have to cross a river or two on the way. But in the movie, the actual existence of plans was the Deep Dark Secret, the smoking gun, and if I also recall, this gave Redford a chance to deliver the usual adolescent speech about how My God it’s all a game to you guys. Presumably he would have scoffed at plans for the Normandy landing as well. You sit here in your ivory tower, and it doesn’t mean a thing to you, how many people you kill or picturesque villages are shelled! My God! Yes, yes, run along, young fellow. We have Nazis to deal with.
The movie ends with Redford marching into the New York Times. I’ll show you! I’ll show you all! Cliff Robertson, playing an evil CIA mastermind, asks him: how do you know they’ll publish it? Curtain. A shiver of delicious righteousness passes through the audience – the CIA might even get to the Times. Those bastards. In hindsight it’s hilarious, because we know now the New York Times would publish the details of an Israeli strike on Iraq, including the home phones of the pilots and the the URLs of their Facebook pages.
Paranoia thrillers have made a return in the last few years, as filmmakers and producers attempt to do their civic duty to combat the Bush Peril. The last few films are finally trickling out of the pipeline, just in time for the era of Hope and/or Change, and it makes you wonder: now that the savior of the nation guides us with his steady hand and impeccable judgment, will there still be movies about the perfidy of “patriots?”
Well, sure. As long as there are Republicans. A few nights ago I watched “State of Play,” a movie about a crusading journalist who teams up with a spunky perky blogger to expose the murderous doings of a private security contractor. It’s not named Blackwater, and at least they called it “Point Five” instead of, oh, Darkfluid or Inkyliquid, but we know who it’s supposed to be. A Crusading Congressman is attempting to expose the group when the murders start, and we allllll know who’s responsible; anyone will tell you that when you’re the subject of a congressional investigation, you should start killing witnesses and congressional staff the day before the hearings start. We know Congressperson Affleck is a conservative, because he answers to a House Majority Leader with Newt-hued hair, a flag pin, and a tendency to berate people for taking the Lord’s name in vain. Say no more! Brand that man with the Scarlet R! The screenwriter may have been anguished about having a GOP congressman investigate Blackwater, but trust me: he finds a nice way to deal with that piece of cognitive dissonance.
The movie resurrects the Watergate-era notion of the principled, dogged reporter thrust in the maelstrom of conspiracy. We know he’s a real reporter, because he drives an old car, has a messy apartment and a messy desk no doubt crawling with silverfish; he’s slovenly and unkempt and doughy, but oh-so-irresistible to willowy blonde women and perky bloggers because A) he’s a man of passion and conviction, and B) he’s played by Russell Crowe, and hence probably looks better when shaved and bathed and put on a diet. Unfortunately, he has trouble getting his story past his editor (Helen Mirren, chewing through the cliched dialogue like a kid eating a cooked carrot quickly to stave off the gag reflex) because the paper’s been bought by RUPERT MURDOCH. Well, it’s not spelled out, but you know that’s who they mean.
As long as there are Ruperts, conservatives and private security services bent on repealing the 3rd amendment so you’re forced to put them up in your house, there will be ample opportunity for the political thriller. It’s ironic, really: in the olden times, a movie might spin a gripping tale out of an administration that had an actual Communist in its ranks. But then anti-anti-communism became the default position for the bien pensants, and calling someone a commie was a sign of a paranoid lunatic who sat in darkened rooms and drew acrostics about Precious Bodily Fluids.
Now we have an administration that contains an Actual Communist, but he gets thrown out because it seems he also is a Truther. There might be a movie in there somewhere, but’s not very dramatic to accuse someone of being everything they’ve admitted to being. Imagine a dramatic meeting in a darkened parking lot with Deep Throat – he looks around to make sure they’re alone, pulls out an iPhone, and calls up some YouTube clips.
Deep Throat: Burn the URL as soon as you copy these videos, and empty your cache!
Investigative Blogger: But the video already has 23,464 hits, and it’s mirrored on 26 other accounts.
Deep Throat: You mean everyone knows about this YouTube?
Investigative Blogger: Well, yeah.
Deep Throat: Huh. Well. I watch the Nightly News and read the Times, and I didn’t know any of this stuff until I googled him.
Investigative Blogger: Really. Imagine that.
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