Slow to awaken after the 9/11 attacks, Hollywood has finally come around to contributing what it can in the War on Terror: namely, glossy, star-studded movies that sympathize with the enemy.
Hard to believe? Here's the pitch: with box-office numbers trending down, studio executives are suddenly greenlighting movies they can describe to shareholders as 'controversial' or 'timely.' Whether the films are anti-American or otherwise demoralizing to the war effort is apparently immaterial. Its appetite whetted by "Fahrenheit 9/11"'s $222 million worldwide gross, Hollywood thinks it's found a formula for both financial security and critical plaudits: noxious anti-American storylines, bathed in the warm glow of star power.
Here are just a few films already in the pipeline:
- "V For Vendetta." From Warner Brothers and the creators of "The Matrix" comes this film about a futuristic Great Britain that's become a 'fascist state.' A masked 'freedom fighter' named V uses terror tactics (including bombing the London Underground) to undermine the government - leading to a climax in which the British Parliament is blown up. Natalie Portman stars as a skinhead who turns to 'the revolution' after doing time as a Guantanamo-style prisoner.
- "Munich." Steven Spielberg directs this film about the aftermath of the 1972 Olympic terror attacks that killed eleven Israeli athletes. "Munich"'s screenplay is written by playwrite Tony Kushner ("Angels in America"), who has been quoted as saying: "I think the founding of the state of Israel was for the Jewish people a historical, moral, political calamity ... I wish modern Israel hadn¹t been born." The film focuses on the crisis of conscience undergone by Israeli commandos tasked with killing PLO terrorists - rather than on the barbarity of the terrorists themselves.
- "Untitled Oliver Stone 9/11 Project." Paramount will distribute Oliver Stone's new film recounting the rescue of two Port Authority officers after the 9/11 attacks. The film will star Nicholas Cage and Maggie Gyllenhaal - who recently suggested that America was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
As for Stone, he had this to say only a month after 9/11: "This attack was pure chaos, and chaos is energy. All great changes have come from people or events that were initially misunderstood, and seemed frightening, like madmen."
"Syriana." Starring George Clooney and Matt Damon, this Warner Brothers film - set during the first Bush administration - features a plot by American oil companies and the U.S. government to redraw Middle East borders for greater oil profiteering. The film even depicts a handsome, 'tragic' suicide bomber driven to jihad after being fired by an American oil company! The film's climax comes with the jihadist launching an explosive device into an oil tanker as American oil barons and Saudi officials look on.
"The Scorpion's Gate." Sony has optioned former terrorism-czar Richard Clarke's novel about oil companies and Washington politicians colluding to reshape the map of the Middle East for greater oil profiteering - this time by launching a global nuclear war.
"The Chancellor Manuscript." Paramount reworks Robert Ludlum¹s 1977 thriller into an anti-Patriot Act star vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio. Here's the film's screenwriter, Michael Seitzman: "We live in this crazy post-Patriot Act environment where Benjamin Franklin¹s warning that 'those that give up essential liberties for temporary security don¹t deserve either one' are being ignored, so the subject matter seemed ripe."
"No True Glory: The Battle for Fallujah." Universal has attached Harrison Ford to star as real-life General Jim Mattis - in this story blaming the White House for the deaths of fifty Marines in one of the Iraq war's deadliest battles. Based on the book of the same name by Bing West.
"American Dreamz." This 'satire' from Universal Pictures deals with Pakistani suicide bombers out to kill the US president. The film stars Hugh Grant, Richard Dreyfuss, Willem Dafoe and Mandy Moore. According to writer-director Paul Weitz ("American Pie"), "The film is a comic examination of ... cultural obsessions" like the War on Terror "and how they can anaesthetise us to the actual issues of our day."
"Terminus." Set in the Middle East of the future, this Warner Brothers film depicts a 'disillusioned' war correspondent covering an 'insurgency' he decides he must support. The producer, Basil Iwanyk, says: "It deals head on with what some call insurgency, what some call guerilla warfare and what some call freedom fighting."
"Jarhead." This Universal release, starring Jamie Foxx and Jake Gyllenhaal, deals with the 'dehumanization' of Marine trainees prior to and during the 1991 Gulf War. Based on Andrew Swofford's notorious and questionable memoirs of the same name.
The above list, incidentally, should not be taken as comprehensive. For example, Paramount also has projects in the works about a 'reformed' al-Qaeda operative, and about the victim of an Iraqi suicide bomber. Little about these projects has been made public.
One thing should be obvious from this list: left-wing agitprop filmmaking is no longer the purview of desperate, 'indie' filmmakers with shaky camcorders and maxed-out credit cards. The films listed above are being made by large, multi-national corporations - and will feature sophisticated, expensive marketing campaigns with A-list stars. Imagine Leni Riefenstahl cross-promoting "Triumph of the Will" with People Magazine covers and E! Channel specials. That's more or less what Hollywood has in mind.
Hollywood has shifted strategies in its opposition to the War on Terror. No longer content to let clumsy, uncouth documentarians like Michael Moore or Robert Greenwald conduct its foreign policy, Tinseltown is rolling out big guns like Harrison Ford and Leo DiCaprio and George Clooney - complete with their p.r. firms, dazzling smiles, and easy charm.
It's imperative for conservatives to shift strategies, as well. It will no longer be sufficient for outraged conservatives to storm talk radio, the Internet or Fox News with the idea of verbally 'rebutting' these movies like dour lawyers in a courtroom. When these films arrive, with their star-power, swelling soundtracks and digital effects, they'll hit the public with the force of a hurricane - and there'll be no obvious butt of derision like Michael Moore for talking-head conservatives to target. These filmmakers and their movies will be much more polished, subtle - and insidious. And these films will be more dangerous than "Fahrenheit 9/11" because their strategy will be to entertain.
The proper 'response' for this sort of thing is simple, if complex in execution. At some point conservatives need to raise capital, pick up cameras and start making movies of their own - much like Mel Gibson did with "The Passion." And conservatives should do this not simply to 'rebut' the other side, but to add depth and imagination to what has become a wasteland of popular entertainment. Most Hollywood insiders - even liberals - agree that Hollywood is in a creative depression. More conservative voices can only help what has become a bleak situation for the town, both artistically and financially.
Movies are a powerful force in shaping the imagination of our culture, and in defining how history is remembered. It will be a great shame if all we leave behind from this vital period in American history is a shoddy trail of "Syriana"s, "V For Vendetta"s or "American Dreamz" - rather than a "Casablanca" or a "Notorious." But conservatives obviously can't wait for Hollywood to do that for them - they're going to have to do it themselves.
Jason Apuzzo is a filmmaker, Co-Director of The Liberty Film Festival, and Editor of the conservative film blog LIBERTAS.