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In ascolto (2006)

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Estranged by the degree of corporate influence within the largest U.S. listening station in the world, an aging NSA officer defects and mounts a clandestine counter-listening station high in the Italian alps.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Francesca Savelli
Andrea Tidona ...
Gianni Longardo
Anthony Ashe
Guglia Graef
Bruce McGuire ...
Phil Kovacs
Frank Vaughan
John Strobel
Carla Cassola ...
Tina Longardo
Giulia Bernardini ...
Katherine Palmer
Louis Perry
Harold Bradley ...
Polygraph Examiner


Estranged by the degree of corporate influence within the largest U.S. listening station in the world, an aging NSA officer defects and mounts a clandestine counter-listening station high in the Italian alps.

Add Full Plot | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »





Release Date:

28 April 2006 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

I akroasi  »

Box Office


€2,870,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(European Film Market)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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User Reviews

Everything you say will be taken down and held in evidence against everyone
16 December 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This is a remarkable film about hair-raising (fictional?) abuses of the notorious eavesdropping system called 'ECHELON', which is operated by the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States, with a major listening post in the north of England. The French title of the film is LE PROJET ÉCHELON ('The Echelon Project'), and THE LISTENING is the title of the English language DVD. Although the film is an Italian production, it was apparently shot in English (perhaps the Italians got a dubbed version in their language, as they do not seem to mind dubbing in Italy). It is the first and only feature film directed by Giacomo Martelli, and perhaps after exposing Echelon, 'he can never work again' in the international film scene? Most recently (2010-2012), he has directed an Italian TV series entitled 'ANTIMAFIA SQUAD – PALERMO TODAY'. So he is clearly not afraid to make enemies of the most dangerous people in the world, that is obvious. (For those visiting Palermo, if you wish to see the Mafia Headquarters, it is an enormous building in a low-lying and rather deserted section of the old part of town disguised by heavily sheeted scaffolding all around it so that from the outside it appears to be a derelict building, and the lights inside at night cannot be seen from the street. Indoors, there are Renaissance paintings on the walls and plenty of luxurious features, even an appallingly bad-taste restaurant of extreme high prices nearby where the girlfriends can be taken, dripping in diamonds.) This excellent film makes a full-frontal attack on the way multi-national corporations are becoming increasingly enmeshed in the security apparatus of America, as well as other states of course. Since this film came out, much more has been revealed in the media about private contractors with private armies paid for by the American taxpayers, who are unaccountable both financially and in terms of lines of command, and which have run out of control in the most alarming manner. Some of the combat duties in Iraq, for instance, were out-sourced to private companies, and that caused a scandal, but one which was quickly suppressed. There is nothing remotely implausible about the story of this film, and it may well be an under-representation of the problem. The Echelon system, which has been well known for a long time and has doubtless been superseded now by far more sophisticated systems evolved from it, monitors all worldwide telephone and other electronic communications using banks of super-computers. When key words are spotted, or key voices are recognised, the system automatically alerts the human operators. The reason the system is called 'Echelon' is that it does this in ascending steps of a hierarchy of alert. If someone mentions 'terrorist attack', that might be a level one alert triggering a more intense automated scrutiny, but if someone mentions 'terrorist attack next week', that might jump to level four, and require a human listener. The supposed justification for this monster eavesdropping system is 'protection against attack', which goes to show that paranoia is the ruling political principle these days, and any scepticism expressed about 'the terrorist threat' has now itself become 'a threat'. It's like trying to make a joke at airport check-in that you don't have a bomb in your bag: you will immediately be hauled off and interviewed for hours, so don't be tempted to have a sense of humour anymore because it has become 'politically incorrect', and there might as well be a sign on the current White House lawn which says: 'jokers will be persecuted', and even thinking of stepping on the grass has now become a hate crime. One day, when airport systems are fitted with 'thought detectors', and don't forget we are already being photographed naked by devices which see through our clothes, we will all be in danger of arrest if we think of the wrong political party when boarding a plane. It is already dangerous to suggest that a large proportion of the world's politicians might be psychopaths, since there is nothing a psychopath hates more than being identified as what he is. Psychopaths can manipulate the LIBOR rate, lie to Parliament and take a nation to war, pass a Patriot Act which no one in Congress has read, and order every conversation in the world to be listened to, and no one will do anything about it. Banks can launder billions of dollars of drug and terrorist money a year and just received a slap on the wrist when exposed. The lunatics took over the asylum so long ago that there are few people alive who are old enough to remember a sane world (if such a thing ever existed, of course). This film has a brilliant central performance by the actor Michael Parks, who plays a very low-key, aging and depressed expert who has worked for the NSA for 30 years. He is a traditionalist who believed in 'serving his country'. But when arrogant corporate toadies invade his premises with instant high security clearances and start threatening his bosses and himself and saying 'don't you know that I can have you fired?', he cracks. When he sees that they are trying to kill an innocent woman in Italy because she accidentally came across something which might threaten a $400 million deal, he goes rogue, flies to Italy to save her, and tries to expose the new system called 'Tumbleweed' and the way in which everyone in the world is threatened by psychopathic corporate people. The entire film is done in a very under-stated style, with no hyperbole, and without unnecessary and silly Bourne-style action sequences. See it and tremble. Much of it is shot in the deep snow on the top of Mont Blanc, at 11,000 feet, which does have a chase sequence over the crags. The suspense throughout is very intense. This film is really worthwhile.

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