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Many of the comments here seem to want to review this movie as if it was a
real major motion picture. In reality, this was very much a B movie and
should be judged in the same class as movies with giant bunny rabbits and
bug-eyed aliens. Not only is the story implausible, but they are adding
this film to the definition of the word.
Like many B movies, this film has a few well-known actors who dropped in for the weekend to read it off of cue cards, were paid in cash, and somehow forget to list this film on their resume. Kevin Pollak and Timothy Hutton definitely had alimony payments coming due that weekend. Like all great B movies, the budget was miniscule. The movie takes place entirely in a diner, not because it was a good idea, but because they couldn't even afford decent stock footage. Beyond the few actors with names, the remaining cast was selected by who was in the commissary that day. What's really fun is how the set is obviously raided from scenery storerooms. What's with that British phone booth? And, B movies love to toss around the nukes, with no real thought to strategy, consequences, fallout, war powers act, or anything else at all. Last, but not least, we have the "surprise" ending, which even those who knew the surprise didn't seem to see coming.
There are clearly some fun things about this film. The Iraqi chemical and biological threat that gets sorta forgotten later in the film. The use of two different ocean nuclear detonations to make one supposed city detonation. The news network with more intelligence gathering capabilities than the US government (including their own spy satellite network), and yet having only one anchor and really crummy graphics. The pictures of F-117 fighters referred to as B2 bombers. The compressed time (just how fast were those missiles and bombers flying?), combined with "pacing by snail". The "don't mind us" attitude about random citizens sitting in on a war strategy meeting, occasionally butting in. Let's put the ultra top secret combination for the "football" on speakerphone so everyone can hear!
But, everyone has watched a lot of B movies and found them entertaining (or at least not too boring). I found this film entertaining and made it all of the way through it. It's worth a viewing just for fun (especially if you are not paying for it). After all, you know you saw "Night of the Lepus"!
I had seen the trailer for this movie a couple of months back, before the
events of the last month, and I knew then that I wanted to see the movie.
This weekend, I watched it and was shocked at how amazing it
Almost paralleling the events of the past couple of months, in the film, the current President (Pollock) must deal with rising problems with North Korea, and the sudden invasion of Kuwait by Saddam's son, who is the current military leader of Iraq. Finding his hands tied, the President issues a warning to the Iraqi leader: leave Kuwait and power down your weapons of mass destruction, within two hours, or else you and your city will be hit with a nuclear bomb.
After this threat, the film does into high pressure tension mode. Will the President keep his promise? Is he bluffing? And what is going to happen if he does use a nuclear bomb against his enemies?
Trust me, this is a film that will NOT disappoint.
This 1999 film features an appointed Vice President who assumes
power upon the death of the President -- ergo, a completely unelected
President. Interesting concept but more importantly, the basic plot has
this President forced to face a major crisis in Iraq when all of his
diplomatic and military power is concentrated on a crisis in Korea.
Somebody must be reading this script in Washington right now -- but they
switched the locations.
At any rate, all of the ranting negative reviews and the flowery positive reviews I have seen here on IMDB about this film seem to me to miss the point. What happens in the film is of limited note compared to very strange feeling of "deja now" watching this film in February, 2003 while watching its big brother on CNN live. See this film! It's interesting, a bit disturbing, and sightly prescient (only partially I hope).
Deterrence is one of those small little films that leaves a huge impression. Like The War at Home, a post-Vietnam war drama starring Emilio Estevez, Deterrence received a very minor release, but will end up being one of the year's best films. Kevin Pollak (The Usual Suspects, Grumpy Old Men) stars as the President of the United States. Pollak, however, was not elected, but was appointed Vice President and then took over after the death of the President. Forced to stay in a Colorado diner because of a blizzard, Pollak and his 2 most trusted assistants, played by Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, Playing God) and Sheryl Lee Ralph (Bogus, White Man's Burden) find out about an illegal invasion into Kuwait by Sadaam Hussein's son. After some thought Pollak goes on National Television and announces a deadline for Hussein to leave or Pollak will drop a nuclear bomb on Baghdad. The whole film takes place inside this diner and relies on the tension that builds up as they get closer and closer to the deadline and as Pollak has to weigh his decision hearing arguments from both sides. The film is fascinating thanks to a strong amount of tension built up as we truly wonder what is going to happen. Hutton and Ralph are both solid as the 2 assistants, but the film belongs to Pollak and his strong lead performance. Highly recommended.
I was pretty shocked when I saw the overall IMDb rating and the
negative user comments. Considering the "one set" limitation - you have
to have some pretty good character / dialogue to maintain interest -
and I thought the film kept up just the right amount of tension until
the truly shocking end - see recent events in Iraq.
I thought the whole point was that the US was threatened during the re-election phase of a President out to prove his metal - Pollack was brilliant.
Its set in a Diner so that the President is FORCED to listen to Joe and Joanna Public - likewise they get to see the inhuman pressures put upon the person in that Office.
Who cares if the bloody B2 looked like an F17 or whatever the bloody plane is supposed to be THAT AIN'T GONNA RUIN THE MOVIE - it was made on a shoestring and is a great example of how to make a substantial picture without spending millions of dollars. It gains gravity from the storyline rather than an A list cast. A strong, gripping film that seems to have grown in relevance over the years.
Overall, the film is pretty good for a low budget FAIL SAFE set in a diner, though I have to admit that I'm glad I saw it on a screening video rather than on the big screen. It plays well, as a good made for cable movie, but not as a big screen feature. The entire film is set in one interior location with the only visual images of the outside world coming from television broadcasts that the characters watch in the diner. A film can be done well shot in one location, as Hitchcock proved, but writer/director Rod Lurie isn't quite up to the challenge and the film sometimes feels sluggish. The film opens with a montage of clips of speeches by former presidents, and one future fictitious one, decrying war, intercut with a view of Earth from space, as the opening credits come up. For some pretentious reason the first five minutes of the film, setting up the support characters in the diner, is shot in black and white and only switches to color with the entrance of the president (Pollak) and his entourage. The locals who inhabit this Diner are one-dimensional stereotypes. There is the weathered and wise old black cook, the ignorant racist trucker, and the dizzy French Canadian waitress. We only know that she's French Canadian because one of the patrons identifies her accent, though her accent shifts back and forth from Southern drawl to a Midwest (Fargo) accent. The film would have been a lot better had these characters been erased from the screenplay all together. Perhaps it had to be set in a diner because the budget couldn't cover a war room or White House set. The crisis story is believable and much of the dialogue between the president and his advisors is well written. Timothy Hutton, as the president's old friend and advisor, has a nice short monologue about the Los Alamos tests and the destruction of Baghdad that does more to evoke the scale of the situation than anything else in the film does. To be fair to the film, I watched it a twice before jotting this down. There was a twist at the end of the film that I thought was out of place the first time I saw it that made sense upon my second viewing. The president has an ace up his sleeve and I thought it was preposterous that he would hold back information from his staff just so the film could surprise the audience at the end. But on second viewing I saw where he advises his staff off screen away from the other characters. Stock footage is used often, and usually pretty well, during the news reports that come into the diner. Though sometimes they should have avoided using stock footage all together. (An F117 is not a B2 bomber and the detonation footage from the Bikini Atoll has been used a thousand times already and detracts from the emotional impact of the moment) It's a fairly clever script that would do well, minus some of the support characters, as a one-act play. It's definitely worth renting when it comes out on video. As for seeing it in the theaters it's good to see studios like Paramount putting out small original films like this but I wish it could have been done better for the big screen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Often you have to suspend disbelief in order for a cinematic story to
work and I think I'm right in saying all screen writing gurus agree
you're allowed to get away with one implausibility/coincidence in your
story . In DETTERENCE this would probably mean that the Iraqis would be
able to mobilize their entire armed forces without the Americans
noticing , allowing the president to trapped in a diner during a
snowstorm . I'd be the first to admit that this takes some swallowing
but if you watch a film too closely then very few films you see will
ever work so let's ignore the unlikeliness of it
Unfortunately what happens next is that the audience become more and more aware of factual errors and implausibilities throughout the running time . We're told that Iraq " has sent three divisions ...half a million men into Kuwait " I'm fairly certain that in military circles a division is composed of 8,000 to 10,000 troops not 133,000 as stated here . The President decides to nuke Iraq but since Iraq also has nuclear weapons there's a danger of a nuclear counterstrike . This is the main stumbling block with DETERRENCE because it's impossible to believe the Iraqi regime would ever be allowed to posses such an arsenal . And if that leaves you scratching your head wait till it's revealed at the end that America and France were responsible for supplying the Iraqis with the bomb " so that Iraq wouldn't be able to manufacture its own nuclear deterrent " ! Let me think , America and France will supply Iraq with nuclear warheads and a delivery system so that the Iraqis won't manufacture their own weapons of mass destruction . When you've got something as ridiculously illogical as that in your screenplay then it's easy to miss other factual errors like a B-2 bomber being confused with a F-111 , Baghdad having a population of 12 million people or stock footage of Baghdad being in the center of the Pacific ocean as it's destroyed by a 100 megaton bomb
I'm sure writer/director Rod Lurie originally conceived this story for the stage . It's impossible to watch this thinking it's a cinematic movie and alas Lurie has written his characters as stereotypes such as the hick redneck , the angry blackman etc . It's not helped either that the cast give far from compelling performances . Hutton may be excused for slapping his head too often because that's how I reacted to the unconvincing dialogue while Kevin Pollack doesn't come across as being very presidential but that is the point - his character isn't supposed to be presidential at all . But there's far better , more realistic movies similar to this like FAIL SAFE which was made during the cold war where the premise was so compelling because it was frighteningly realistic . Realistic isn't an adjective I can use for DETERRENCE
Director & writer Lurie, a West Point grad (Ring Knockers, where
are YOUR reviews?) hits the legalities of an un-elected successor
president (Gerald Ford would serve as the precedent) facing a
military crisis leading to his making a decision regarding waging
war or committing an act of deterrence.
The power of the executive branch is 100% on (as political junkie Lurie's education shows us the mechanisms of political power during a military crisis). The military component is also 100% on point.
Mr. Lurie's first film is written for a small budget and could have been a two-act play--but the financial limits aside this is one fine film. It is prescient as we face war with Iraq once again. Mr. Lurie is a writer/director I'm going to follow. His second film, The Contender, is as powerful a political drama as any top film could hope to be. Imagine the sexual politics of a Clinton applied to Margaret Chase Smith.
Ignore the reviews: watch this film and make up your own mind.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
- SPOILERS (But you'll thank me for them) - It is a FACT that the USA itself supplied arms to Iraq - and it wasn't part of some geo-political practical joke! Does no one remember Oliver North? The whole moralistic speech about the French endangering "the American people" by selling arms to Iraq when the US has been perfectly happy to do the same is shockingly propagandistic. The tone the American president uses in ordering around the French president like an employee is laughable. But the worst part is the utterly amoral ending in which the US "nukes" a city of millions of people knowing there was no threat at all, and the whole affair had been the political equivalent of a whoopee cushion. It stinks, and some of the rapturous reviews I've read here fill me with dread. Surely people can't believe that (a) this is a realistic portrayal of international politics or (b) that the behavior of this (fictional) US president is morally justified?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have ten reasons why I like this movie (spoilers contained
1) Kevin Pollak stands out as possibly the best actor to have played an American President in the last several years. 2) Timothy Hutton and Sheryl Lee Ralph played the Presidents' top aides to the letter. 3) I am a sucker for exceptionally plotted tales. 4) I really like the circumstances that made up the movie (such as the snowstorm forcing the President into the diner and a nuke ends up landing within fifty miles of his location). 5) One bit of dialogue nearly made me cringe at the thought of nuking of Baghdad. 6) The direction was superb. 7) The introduction of the movie is unreal (I liked the interweaving of the ex-presidents speaking about war with current events). 8) The feel of "Deterrence" is rightfully unnerving. 9) The ending came as a bit of a surprise. 10) I really like films that can easily spark emotional and philosophical among those who have viewed it.
By stating the number of reasons I like this, I have a better basis for scoring. I give "Deterrence" a 10 out of 10!
Here ends my rant!
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