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An effective piece of propaganda
This movie caught my attention because the trailer seemed like it was inspired by Elfen Lied, a favorite anime of mine. I wasn't the only one to think so, but after watching the movie, I think some things may or may not have been derived from that anime, but this movie is still very much its own thing and not a ripoff.
That's not to say I like it. I don't like its message. I'm just saying it's an effective, and, as far as Hollywood blockbusters go, creative film. I also don't really like it even ignoring the politics of it, but that's largely because it just isn't my taste, not because the film is done poorly. Like I said, I wouldn't likely have even given it a second thought if it wasn't for all the people comparing the trailer to Elfen Lied.
The movie is, if not actually a part of, then at least inspired by the transhumanist movement. It also seems to be a propaganda piece for the Neil Degrasse Tyson/Bill Nye/Stephen Hawking/Carl Sagan/Richard Dawkins, etc. movement of making science a religion, even more so than it has been treated as a religion in the past, while merging, and in some ways confounding, science and philosophy.
Full discloser: I am a religious person and I have a serious problem with transhumanists. But this movie didn't offend me. The thematic elements aren't anything we haven't seen before in various movies, Star Trek episodes, etc. This movie just expresses those themes really well as far as major Hollywood pictures go. It's no surprise that Morgan Freeman plays the male lead. Morgan Freeman has expressed a sort god-complex, saying humans are a sort of god, we just need to work to evolve to our potential of being god, or something. The movie ends with "Lucy" transforming herself, through sheer mental energy, into a godlike and nearly all-powerful being, just by reaching "100 percent" of her brain capacity, and then donating her godlike knowledge to humanity with a flash drive. It is implied that all people have this godlike potential within us, we just haven't been able to tap it.
I find it interesting that a film so obviously intended for those who regard science as a constant war against the ridiculous fantasies of religion and superstition relies entirely on a fantastic premise, plot, and climax to get its message across. Again, I'm not offended, I just find it somewhat ironic. Transhumanism, really, is the religion for atheists who find all the worldviews normally called "religions" too mainstream.
Over all, if you adjust your expectations for the flaws that all Hollywood blockbusters tend to have, then this isn't a bad film at all. I just think it need to be recognized for what it is.
Death Race (1973)
Good for a TV movie, predictable ending, overall not bad at all
If you've seen other movies of this ilk, then you can likely predict the ending just by reading a brief synopsis of the premise before even watching it. The film has mediocre-to-average acting, with the exception of the German general who may be considered a little above average.
As the movie progresses, it becomes more and more obvious that it will end with a dramatic show-down between the tank and the plane, at least one of which will only have one crew member left, because the director just seems to pass up all other opportunities to end the movie differently, and by the last 15 minutes there really is no room left for any other ending. I saw it coming from the beginning, but I was kind of disappointed. I'm not sure what I think would have been a better/more satisfying ending, but I was just hoping despite knowing better that the director would resist the temptation of doing as so many other war movies seem to, that is, making the plot eventually come down to "Moby Dick but with a submarine/ship/plane/tank/person/whatever". The German general character didn't even seem to be heading that way even though I knew that one way or another that is what would happen. He was set up more as a wise tactician and loyal soldier, and only at the very end do they pull out the "military leader obsessed to the point of madness with pursuing and destroying his enemy" trope.
During the movie, the general reveals that pursuing the plane is in reality just a secondary objective en-route a secret rendezvous point in the middle of the desert in which the straggling German forces who got left behind during the retreat are to re-group and attempt to wage guerrilla warfare from behind the Allied front lines. At first I thought the general was just making it up in order to give his men hope to keep them from loosing all morale and mutinying, but then later they reveal though the British characters that this secret base does actually exist and the general really is making his way there, which gave me hope for a different ending than I was expecting. But then they sort of just set that aside and keep going on toward the inevitable dramatic showdown like I originally thought. The secret base they keep referring to, despite being made clear to really exist in the movie's universe, is never actually shown on-screen, probably due to budget limitations. I can get past that, and in fact I think not showing it may have added a special element of suspense, but it was an element of suspense I feel they squandered by not having that secret location have any bearing on the climax. The general, who throughout most of the movie is played as an expert tactician who knows how to carefully bide his time and stalk his wounded prey in order to have his cake and eat it too, suddenly turns into a crazy and unstoppable killer, despite being within just a few hours of the secret base, having more than enough supplies to get there safely, and having two now-defeated enemies whom, instead of taking prisoner as collateral and a source of information as appeared to be his original plan, he decides to just gun down while they are surrendering (one survives), having never displayed any indication before that he considered that an option.
Still, even though the ending was extremely predictable and didn't really make sense from a character motivation standpoint, it was still filmed and acted well enough, and ends on a relatively satisfying cliff-hangar. Given the clearly limited budget and promotion they had, I' say they did a pretty fine job all things considered. Not a riveting masterpiece, but it's a fine little film that's worth its short hour and 15 minutes.
all things considered pretty good
people compare this to Captain Phillips. They are similar in some ways of course, but their main similarity besides the subject matter is that they both have very good acting.
"Hijacking" starts off slow, without the gripping pace of "Phillips" but if you give it a chance it can grow on you. It's slow paced and quite, but not layered with the artsy pretentiousness common to indy films.
You wouldn't think the cook would make a good character focus. He doesn't have stellar looks or great charisma or a harrowing backstory or any of the other characteristics common to leads in Hollywood blockbusters, even so-called realistic ones like "Phillips". Yes he is very real, if not exactly "relatable" and the psychological tole of the whole incident on him is made clear, so that by the end of the film you are quietly relieved and happy for him to see him get back home even if it isn't the great rush of catharsis you would find in "Captain Phillips".
The negotiation scenes seem tedious at fist but they follow the sort of style of tension without action you would find in older movies from the Cold War era. It's no "Fail-Safe", but it holds your attention enough if you can get past the first 20 minutes of slowness.
"Phillips" never really shows the company side of the situation. In this film it is a focus, and the film explores the delicate psychological interplay more effectively, although "Phillips" did a decent job of it for a Hollywood blockbuster.
There is also a theory about the character "Omar" which I won't spoil for you here but it's the kind of subtle mind-f##k you would not likely find in a blockbuster like "Captain Phillips".
Overall this is the sort of film that leaves a sort of quite impact on your psyche. You won't notice it standing out in your mind until a couple years after seeing it.
Hello Herman (2012)
Premise with a lot of potential ruined by pretentiousness and sentimentality
The two leads of this film do an adequate to excellent job all things considered. But that's really about the nicest thing I can say about this movie.
The makers of this film either were trying to make a piece of blatant propaganda or were sincerely interested in giving a dynamic presentation of a complex issue but fell flat on their face. I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope it was the latter. I will say this, the makers do seem to have an at least slightly more lucid understanding of the issue of school shootings than say, Michael Moore, or a lot of other mainstream Hollywood personalities do. For example, "I shot as many people as I did because I had to reset the precedent" is exactly the kind of thing a school mass shooter would say, maybe not after being arrested but before in his journals and "confession" tapes. They were able to recognize and convey the idea that infamy is at least almost as big a motive for people like Herman as "revenge" and that there is more too it than just "wahaha I was bullied so now I'm gonna show everyone by shooting up my school".
The problem is, that little bit of remarkable perceptiveness and insight is completely balanced out by asinine and simplistic messages about other aspects of school shootings. Anyone who has researched the issue even a little in depth knows that the majority of school shooters are not really severely bullied and the ones that clear whole classrooms are especially unlikely to have been severely hazed, in fact they are often bullies themselves. This is not to say that it was "wrong" per se for them to portray Herman as having been a victim of hazing and cyberbullying, the filmmakers are not obligated to make him exactly like other school shooters and should be free to form their own interpretive framework, but they just really hammered it home too hard. Degrassi can be somewhat excused for their overly simplistic interpretation of the relationship between hazing and school shootings because they made that episode at a time when the narrative that the CHS shooters were just two bullied teens driven to the edge by extreme hazing was still the most widely accepted theory, but that notion has long since been debunked, and in 2012-2015 we should know better. I've seen a couple people ask why they chose to cast a pretty boy as the shooter. Well to be honest that was one of their better decisions, because the students who do this kind of thing really are often pretty boys, not acne-ridden overweight outcasts. I mean obviously it's true that a pretty boy can be a bullying victim as much as anyone else, but the narrative that the skinny emo kid that no one talks to is the most likely to attempt an act like this is a disingenuous and frankly dangerous one. Being antisocial does not automatically rank you at the bottom of the food chain.
Every other aspect of the film is a jumbled mess. It seems like in an attempt to frame a dynamic "discussion" about school shootings they decided to try and shoe-horn in as many related topics as possible, but as a result they ended up taking the most juvenile and superficial approach to each one. There's that one political show that serves as an obvious and obnoxious allegory for Fox right-wing talk shows, which is really no more subtle than an SNL sketch about the same subject. There's a Michelle Bachman-like Republican legislator (they just couldn't resist including her party affiliation for the record) who I guess is supposed to p#ss us off with how b#tchy and unsympathetic to Herman she is except the film never really gives us any reason for us to fell all that sorry for him either. Then, as if in an attempt to make it more fair to conservatives, they have some liberal d##s##t commentator who is also presented as being just as much of a moron, along with his "killing people won't stop people from killing people" followers. Maybe the message was "hey look, talking heads who get involved in school shooting stories are nothing more than opportunistic bloodsuckers no matter which end of the political spectrum they hail from", but I doubt it.
There's also some peripheral expository arch about Herman's sister having been killed by a car a couple years before the shooting, complete with way over-the-top sequences of him being haunted by her. The best I can tell is that since he felt it was his fault, that feeling of already having blood on his hands made him less apprehensive about the massacre, but they never really explain it in so much detail. There's also a side-story about Lax Morales's having rolled with a quasi-neonazi underground group during the days of his youth and possibly having been implicated as an accessory in the manslaughter death of a black teenager. The relevance this has to the rest of the movie is never flushed out; they clearly thought it was contributing to some kind of "hate breeds hate, violence breeds violence" message which I suppose could have worked but didn't.
For people familiar with school shooting movies, "Zero Day" is usually the gold-standard. Now I don't think this film should have been "like Zero Day" and for the record I think some of the things they did were pretty clever. But watching Zero Day can help make clear some of the things that this film unquestionably did wrong.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
Better than I expected, but that isn't saying much
Chris Pine does a competent but not stellar job as Jack Ryan. He certainly did better than Ben Affleck, and managed to keep the fact that he has played so many other prominent roles like Capt. Kirk recently from being a distraction. Overall not a bad casting decision. K Knightly also did a pretty decent job as Cathy Ryan.
The first half of the film is actually pretty good all things considered, but after all the exposition is out of the way it degenerates into typical cheap action movie tropes pretty quick. The Jack Ryan series was always kind of like James Bond if it was serious and realistic, but the overused James Bond type clichés, such as the Russian Villain listening to opera or classical while being waited on by subordinates, can be pretty annoying. Even the terrible Some of All Fears film adaptation knew better than to have the obnoxiously overused cliché of showing the amount of time left on a bomb with a shot of the LED timer, but this PG-13 flick just couldn't resist.
Contrary to popular belief among those who are not Tom Clancy fans, Clancy was NOT obsessed with Russia as political antagonists throughout his career. When the international political paradigm changed after the fall of the Iron Curtain, so did the nature of the Jack Ryan universe. Clancy never went on acting as if nothing had changed and the relationship between the US and Russia was the same as it had been during the Cold War.
That's not to say that a good Jack Ryan movie still couldn't be made with Russians as the antagonists, but the plot is simply very weak. Something to do with an oil pipeline, which is somehow then connected to a financial terrorist stock market manipulation thingy while the pipeline story is all but forgotten, and then for some reason they also fell the need to throw in a part about a 9/11-type mass-casualty attack on Wallstreet. The motives of the perpetrators is unclear, just some vague stuff about "avenging the pride of Mother Russia" or something. It lacks the intricacy and realism for which Clancy was renowned.
Clancy always narrated the Jack Ryan universe almost as if it was a futuristic sci-fi world. Everything always felt very raw and detailed. That isn't reflected in this film. Clancy would have known better than to have a professional killer try to kill a target (Ryan) by just spraying bullets everywhere like he was going on a school shooting spree and firing through doors and shower curtains without knowing if he had a chance of hitting like he had unlimited ammo. Things like that just really serve to zap you out of suspension of disbelief and remind you of the fact that Tom Clancy was dead when this was made and was not able to check their realism.
And another thing: where is John Clark? One thing that could have upgraded this film from just another action blockbuster to a decent adaptation of the Jack Ryan universe would have been to have a good actor for John Clark and have good interaction between Ryan and Clark. Maybe even throw in Ding Chavez. One thing I always hated about previous Jack Ryan films was how the producers seemed to regard Clark as a relatively unimportant character and didn't give him much screen time, even in Clear and Present Danger when he should have been as important as Ryan. No one cares about this middle aged retired USN commander that is supposed to be Ryan's mentor or whatever, even if he was a character in the Jack Ryan books (I can't remember). If they were looking to start a new saga, as I am sure they were, they should have gotten a John Clark role right away. Because now that they didn't that just means they will probably end up having to shoe-horn in the character like they did in the Ford, Baldwin, and Afflec Jack Ryan films.
A good game cut short
It took me no more than four hours to complete Journey. While I wasn't left with an empty feeling of disappointment at the end, I was expecting it to take longer. I also would have liked to see more non-linear gameplay involved. For a game that's seems supposed to be allowing the player to find your own way, it really is highly structured and your path is never really unclear. It progresses smoothly from one stage to the next, and if you get lost there are friendly creatures there to guide you along the way. The player is not really encouraged to really explore the world around them once the initial awe of the visual beauty wares off.
I played the non-online collectors' disk version. This mean that I never encountered any life outside of two groups: the friendly nonverbal creatures made of red cloth that appear in various sizes and shapes, and the hostile robotic flying dragon things, which will attack if they notice you but can't actually harm you, though they do eat the friendly red creatures sometimes. I think it would have been nice to see at least a few more passive creatures, because beyond the ones I just mentioned plus the protagonist there is literally no life, not even plant life.
The environment is one of the most beautiful gaming worlds I have ever seen, even as a desert. Still, I think it would have been nice if it was laid out more like a sandbox type game like Minecraft as opposed to a Super Mario World structure in 3D. The world also could have used more variety. I understand that when it's a desert there isn't a whole lot of variety to be had, and the developers did a good job making the world seem bright and interesting despite the fact that it's a desert. Still though, most of the real variety is provided through either change in time of day or weather. I wasn't expecting it to jump from desert to tropical rainforest to pine grove, but they could have thrown in an ocean or oasis or scrublands or something like that. And instead of having the ancient city so evenly interspersed with the desert environment, I think I might have liked it better if large settlements were something to be stumbled upon and thoroughly explored.
The soundtrack is relaxing but not really spectacular. It could also have used more variety.
Beyond all that I really don't have any complaints. It is a highly satisfying gaming experience for one that only lasts a couple hours and involves no violence on your part. I would recommend it for anyone who has had a really bad day and needs to seriously unwind.
Pretty good acting but that's about it
A lot of people have torn this film to pieces for its inaccuracies. Well I've never attended a service academies, but I feel this film has a lot more to be criticized for besides how inaccurate it is.
The only character who really belonged there was Cole. None of the others have any business at the academy. There's the a-hole DC whose character really only exists to give a face to the frustration the plebes feel, who uses methods of hazing that I doubt would be tolerated at the Academy. There's this roommate of Huard who is only there because he has nothing better to do with his time as he lets everyone around him know at every opportunity. There's the obligatory love interest who despite at first seeming very serious about Academy life doesn't realize or care that when they say no fraternization they mean no fraternization. There's that one overachieving cadet who appears to be the most competent of them all and depending on how you view him is either the only one among the main character plebes with any kind of real future as a competent officer or just an a-hole who thinks he's better than everyone just by virtue of being somewhat better adapted to the academy environment, but since he doesn't get much in the way of character development I just assume he's the latter. There's the poor black kid who is going there mainly to make his parents proud.
And then there's Huard. As far as gaining the audience's sympathy, the film throws every advantage in the book his way. He has a dad who never believed in him, a CO who is skeptical of his potential as an officer, an plebe unit who hates him because he keeps screwing up, yet in spite of all this he is determined to make it through. Yet I still could not find it in me to relate to him without a lot of effort.
Huard does not deserve to be at the Academy. His motivation for being there is to make his parents proud and prove to himself that he can do it, rather than any desire to serve his country. Cole even tells him so outright, and Huard's following dialogue does nothing to refute that charge, it just tries to reestablish him as the hopeful underdog whom we need to root for. The fact that the tropes have been set up in such a way as to cast him as the underdog does not make him an underdog. So he had a father who never believed in him, there are people who graduate from the service academies with a lot more going against them than that. In fact as far as I can remember the film never really establishes that the father "never believed in him", only that he never believed he was Academy material. For all we know he has a lot of good reasons to think that. Maybe he realized his son simply did not have the proper attitude. Because I was able to realize that pretty quickly. Again, he's not an underdog, he's the kind of person who has known success all his life but is more comfortable in this specific environment being the "underdog", and anyone who has actually met this kind of person whether in the military or in civilian life should realize this. None of the bad things that happen to him at the academy happen because of an undiagnosed disability or lack of support by his fellow plebes or being sabotaged by a rival cadet or anything like that, they all happen due to the fact that his head is in the clouds and he has no concept of what his proper role within the academy environment is. If I were in his cadet platoon I would probably hate him too. During the scenes where his fellow cadets get hazed as a result of his failures, such as when they all missed out on their lunch because he bet their meals on a trivia question that he was only 65% sure that he knew the correct answer to, or the water bucket scene, the film does a lot to focus on how he personally is suffering/being made uncomfortable through the process, and none showing him coming to any realization that his teammates were suffering because of his indifference toward the Academy curriculum and that he needed to shape up or ship out. In fact the whole time, his goal just seems to be to get through plebe year, with no eye toward four full years at the Academy much less a full and proper career as an officer.
Halfway through the film suddenly decides to add a Rocky plot element with the Brigade boxing championship thingy. Huard's redemption arch from being a pathetic looser to a proper cadet with a future is somehow tied to whether or not he can win that championship. Instead of staying up studying his texts and in general trying to improve himself as a cadet and a leader, he spends his spare time training in boxing, and we are supposed to see that as him improving as a character. The fact that he does end up beating Cole in a round as the glorious payoff really just serves as a red herring against the fact that at the end of the movie he still has not made up his mind as to why he is there and has not improved in any virtues that are expected of an officer besides hand-to-hand combat. The forbidden love interest even gets off his case and lets him become her boyfriend for no clear reason other than she apparently is impressed by his boxing skills. It can't be because he has finally gotten over himself and started being a team player, because the film offers no evidence that that has happened
Not as compelling as Zero Day but still a worthwhile film
Both Zero day and Elephant are films loosely based on the CHS massacre that were released in 2003. However, the two films take very different approaches in documenting their stories. Basically, as far as films about school massacres go, there are two main approaches that the director must choose from, focusing on the perpetrators or focusing on one or more victims . But Elephant is so far the only film I have seen to successfully combine both approaches.
For the first half or more of the film, the camera follows a sort of non-linear anthology film model, where different facets of American high school life are tracked through various characters. The actual shooters aren't even introduced to the audience until at least a third of the way through and we really only catch glimpses of their lives. This may seem at first like sloppy execution by a director who couldn't decide whether he wanted to focus on the shooters or the victims so he first decided to focus on the victims but then later tried to shoe-horn in a storyline about the perpetrators, but the thing you should realize is this approach was probably intended to mirror how an actual student would perceive a massacre at his or her school. Imagine you're a student at a rural high school just going about your week. You know of these two losers named Eric and some other guy you can't remember the name of. You have never spoken to them, but you know a little about them such as the fact that they are social outcasts and sometimes express violent ideations. You might feel a little sorry for them even, but at the end of the day their lives are none of your business, and besides they themselves are kind of jerks. They exist only on the most peripheral ring of your consciousness. Then one day, out of the blue, you see these two kids commit a massacre at your school, in a seemingly totally random act of violence, you see their names and backstories on the news every day for the next year or so, and now the media and politicians are breathing down the necks of people like you demanding an explanation. We see only two scenes related to the actual possible motives of the shooters. In one, a shooter is having eggs thrown at him by a bully. In another, he gets shoved by a fellow student. Both of these scenes last only a couple seconds. So basically, you are presented with the egging scene followed immediately by scenes of the shooters preparing for the massacre and then the actual massacre itself. There's no semblance of logic or rationale to connect those scenes; it's up to you to fill in the gaps.
Because that essentially is the purpose of the film. Like Zero Day, it's not really there to present an interpretation of the facts and beliefs related to school shootings; it's there to aid and enhance your own frame of reference for you to draw your own conclusions, and that's really it. There are no clear or even subtle messages about "we need to do something about guns" or "we need to do something about bullying" or "we need to do something about teen depression and suicide." The film presents itself as nothing more than a set of interrelated facts and stories; it forces you the viewer to do the bulk of the mental work.
Overall, the whole film might seem kind of pointless, and that's really the idea. As Roger Ebert perfectly stated, when the actual shooting scene roles around, the whole thing is completely stripped of any energy, glory, excitement, or reward. The scene is indeed bloody, it is violent, it is disturbing, but it is also something you would never think would be used to describe a scene depicting a school massacre: tedious. As good a film as Zero Day is even compared to this film, you have to admit that while you were watching it there was a little part of you deep inside your subconscious mind that related a little bit to Andre and Cal and thought they were badass and was rooting for them and saying "yeah go Army of Two" even up to and including the actual library scene. Not so with Elephant, in which the school shooting is portrayed as the absolute most lame and pointless thing you could do. During the shooting scene there are a couple parts where the shooters are shown as hostile and angry, but the overwhelming majority of the time they just seem bored out of their skulls and eager to get the whole thing over with. There's no glorious payoff, just raw, unfiltered death.
In fact the shooters actually spend most of the shooting in separate locations of the school, only meeting once in the library and then briefly again in the cafeteria before one of the shooters abruptly shoots the other, which the dead shooter clearly did not see coming. This is quite obviously not what happened at the actual CHS shooting, but it does convey an important idea. The two shooters are clearly not quite on the same page as far as their motivations and plans go. During the actual CHS shooting, there was a clear discrepancy between the mental states of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, with the latter being very loud and aggressive while the former was more reserved and passive. The distinction is not quite as clear and played out in this movie, but the two shooters are still portrayed as basically being two separate individuals whose solidarity is founded mainly on their shared goal of shooting up their school but who on a personal level are really just friends more than comrades. Therefore, they are presented not so much as "two troubled teens against the world" but just two losers who thought it would be fun to shoot up their school one day.
Obvious propaganda but still a good show
This show, like its predecessor Dragnet, was produced at a time when the LAPD was facing a lot of criticism for racism and police brutality. It seems one of the goals of these shows was to "correct" these impressions of the LAPD and American law enforcement in general. Well the show does it well. Episodes tackle issues such as protest against the Vietnam war, black people who mistrust the police, cops who object to having to Mirandize suspects, etc. And what's more, though this portrayal of the LAPD does seem a little whitewashed, the LAPD officers (except the main cast of course) aren't even always portrayed as being completely in the right. Dirty cops are an issue that the series doesn't completely dodge, for example.
Unlike Dragnet and many other cop shows, most episodes feature several different incidents that the police have to respond to. and even though a lot of them are quite mundane with no action or gun fights, the show still manages to make the mundane life of two LAPD officers seem interesting.
Zero Day (2003)
One of the better "found footage" films out there.
This movie is loosely "based on" the CHS shooting in much the same way that Citizen Kane is based on the life of William Hearst and 8 Mile is based on Eminem's life story. There are numerous allusions to the actual CHS shootings that someone who hasn't researched it might not get but that you will most likely notice if you have researched it. Nevertheless, the film is clearly set in a universe where Columbine never happened as the shooting in this film is their version of Columbine.
For the uninitiated, before the shooting, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold made several home videos, including the Rampart Range video, Hit men for Hire, and the unreleased "Basement Tapes". These serve as the inspiration for the film.
But making it a found footage film was more than just a cheap ploy to connect it to the CHS shooting while at the same time keeping the budget low (though it certainly did do that). Ben Coccio was masterful at using this technique to control information flow to the audience. The film starts after the two shooters have already made the decision to carry out Zero Day, so we never see the process of them actually debating and deciding to do it. Just like how we don't really know anything about the conversations between Harris and Klebold that lead up to the massacre before they started writing their journals. We know Andre and Cal have been bullied, but to what extent and how much that contributed remains mysterious, just like with the actual CHS shooters. We never even see life inside the school until the actual shooting. No videos of Andre and Cal being bullied and not even one based on the video Eric Harris made inside CHS. In fact we never even get the name of the school in this movie. It's just "our school, located in our town." I'm sure Ben Coccio thought about giving it a name but instead decided to make it a conscious omission. Which serves two purposes, one, to remind us that this could happen anywhere in America, even in your own town, and also to keep us feeling enclosed in their world.
And that feeling of being enclosed in their world is skillfully played throughout the whole film. The only time we are really taken out of it is in the prom video when one of the shooters is gone and his classmates are discussing them behind their backs. Even after the shooting is over we still have that feeling of enclosure. It would have been so easy and tempting for Ben Coccio to have made the last video simply be a news bulletin with "At approximately 10:30 this morning two shooters opened fire at XX high school in XX county, XX state. At least 14 are confirmed dead including the perpetrators bla bla boa." Instead we get another home video, this time by some people vandalizing the shooters' crosses at the memorial, and they mention the media once in passing and we see a glance of a news van but that's about the only connection to the outside world. Therefore the last video gives you not the feeling of being an outsider looking into this scene, but still being inside this world with the outside world looking in.
Another thing: if this really happened and these videos were released to the public, the faces of all the extras would be censored and so would certain names. But they aren't. Therefore this film simulates not only how it would be in real life, but how an insider would see them in real life. Therefore my recommendation for viewing this is to imagine you live in this film's universe and you are the sheriff of the county where this happened (remember for you Columbine never happened) and you are viewing all this footage for the first time as part of the investigation and imagine how you would react and then imagine how the actual Jefferson County Sheriff may have reacted.