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A Film with a Scary, Foreseeable Future
by Jon Schuller

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The movies have tried, sometimes successfully, to peer into the future and describe to us what's in store for the world. How the country might look in 50, 100 or even 200 years ahead has been a theme that's often repeated. Science fiction is usually the vehicle writers and directors use to get their visions across. A prime example is Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece from 1968, 2001 A Space Odyssey, where we see man's earliest past and what his time ahead in outer space might look like. The inventions shown in that film have become realities. Darker futures have also been seen in films like Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Blade Runner, Dark Metropolis, Forbidden Planet, Alien, The Terminator, RoboCop, Star Wars and The Matrix. All of these (and others) paint pictures of worlds out of control and human beings reduced to mere things, not running their lives. But there are also other movie genres that are more political in nature, concentrating on human affairs that might look and sound like current events. 1964's Seven Days in May chronicled an attempted military coup in the United States thwarted by a single individual. The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Manchurian Candidate, Three Days of the Condor and The Day of the Jackal all portray chilling looks at what might happen if political or military powers might go too far
and stifle freedom. Today's news sometimes echoes these themes.

In November, 1998 a film premiered that gave audiences a disturbing look at what could happen if terrorism in America was so severe that martial law had to be invoked to protect innocent civilians. The Siege was directed by Edward Zwick and starred Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, Bruce Willis, and Tony Shalhoub.

Washington plays FBI Special Agent Anthony Hubbard and Shalhoub portrays his Lebanese-American partner Frank Haddad. They've been called in to investigate a terrorist threat to blow up a Brooklyn bus filled with passengers. The bomb, filled with paint, is a hoax and the terrorists who'd demanded the release of a known religious leader escape. Hubbard has a problem with CIA agent Elise Kraft who wants to protect her sources inside the Muslim community. Hubbard has arrested her c.i. whom she defends as innocent, pleading that she needs him to help her with other threat sources. Then another bus is really bombed as the F.B.I. continues to arrest suspects. The escalations go from threats to actual events as a theatre is bombed and then the F.B.I.'s own office is attacked by suicide bombers driving into the lobby as 600 people die instantly.

The President orders the army into Brooklyn as martial law is declared throughout the
entire borough. The U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, under Major General William Devereaux (Willis), is sent in. He immediately orders that all young, Arab men will be rounded up and imprisoned in large makeshift concentration camps. Cages are set up in Yankee Stadium and other locations. Any male found on the street will be immediately arrested, regardless of who they are. Frank Haddad's own son is captured as Frank resigns in protest and goes looking for Frank, Jr. Severe actions by the Army have angered Hubbard as he and Elise Kraft (who is really C.I.A. Agent Sharon Bridger) are trying to find and protect her prime source. She believes he is innocent and only wants to help her. But Deveraux and his troops have captured a suspect, Tariq Husseini, and during the intense interrogation have killed him. Sharon tells Hubbard that Husseini couldn't have known anything; the cells are "compartmentalized," separated from each other so if one cell is compromised it cannot reveal the others. She herself was secretly training insurgents to fight against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. But Hubbard doesn't fully trust her and what she tells him. Some of the very men she trained and equipped were brought to the United States (by Sharon) to protect them after many of them were caught and captured by Hussein's forces.
One of these men, Samir, tells Hubbard and Bridger he knows the last cell and can arrange a meeting with them. She meets him and then Samir reveals he is actually the "last cell" who plans to detonate a bomb he's wearing at a peace march. She tries to stop him and he kills her. Hubbard and Haddad arrive too late to help her and Hubbard shoots Samir.

The two agents and others raid Major General Deveraux's headquarters with a warrant. The general resists but eventually he and his men stand down and the FBI men take him into custody.

This film, shot before 9/11, may prompt you to think about what is currently happening in America today. People are being singled out because of their religious choices or their nationalities. Some are being deported. Hate crimes have increased and criminal acts are being perpetrated against mosques, synagogues and cemeteries. People are being murdered simply because of how they look or speak. Hate groups are publicly displaying themselves and why. I hope that the ultimate actions of the film martial law and detention centers do not become new realities in 2017. Our country was founded on individual freedoms and as a haven for people who simply wanted to escape fear and oppression. It is a realistic movie and the four principle actors are marvelous and convincing in their roles.

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Cinema Savant
Every other Thursday

My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.

Other Columns
Other columns by Jon Schuller:

Have You Been Spying On Me Lately? For How Long?

But Can She Act? That's What I Want to Know

They're Not the Same People They Used To Be

Time Does Fly When We Watch Movies

Before Minimum or Maximum, There Was Only Prison

All Columns

Jon Schuller
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for almost 30 years. I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I enjoy sharing my love of films with everyone and have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 50 years (as of December 22, 2018) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).

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