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DETERRENCE

SYNOPSIS:
In winter 2008, while a freak snowstorm has the US President Walter Emerson (Kevin Pollack) stuck in a Colorado roadside café, across the world the new Iraqi leader, Abu Hussein (Amit Mehta) launches an invasion of Kuwait. The President, with his senior entourage, has to take command from a laptop and mobile phone as the crisis escalates. In his address to the nation (via the camera of a friendly cable news network touring with him), he issues an ultimatum: if Iraq doesn’t withdraw the US will drop a nuclear bomb on Baghdad. Does he mean it?

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If you haven’t heard of this film, it’s probably because it didn’t get a theatrical release in Australia. Even in the US, it disappeared after taking about US$300,000. Made in 1999, it is Rod Lurie’s feature debut, and is interesting for several reasons, including the films he directed subsequently: The Contender and The Last Castle.

Deterrence, superbly performed, is a tense political thriller with much going for it, including an ending that will either have you slackjawed in disbelief or squinting in fascinated thought. It’s a good pay-off, either way, and Lurie manages to make the closed room setting inside the café a powerful pressure point. Another element adding to the film’s piquancy is the timing of its video release here, while the war on terror rages on.

The intent of the film is serious, as we can tell from the opening images, a series of short tv grabs showing American presidents from Ike and JFK to young Bush paying lip service to the evils of war. Lurie, whose intelligent script is economical under the circumstances, closes the film with the line, “I hate war.”

Aside from the genuine political ambiance, it’s the human aspects that make the film intriguing as genuine drama, with Kevin Pollack an unlikely President. But that’s acknowledged and explained in the script. Pollack is pretty good, as is the entire the cast – and you’ll be interested to see Sean Astin in a bit part. Astin seems older here than he does in Fellowship of the Ring, in which he plays the Hobbit, Samwise Gamgee, made shortly after this. (In real life he was 30 in February 2002.) I enjoyed it and was intrigued by its premise.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

DETERRENCE (M)
(US)

CAST: Kevin Pollack, Timothy Dutton, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Mark Thompson, Sean Astin, Clotilde Courau, Badja Dola, Amit Mehta

PRODUCER: Marc Frydman, James Spies

DIRECTOR: Rod Lurie

SCRIPT: Rod Lurie

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Frank Perl

EDITOR: Alan Roberts

MUSIC: Larry Groupé

PRODUCTION DESIGN: not credited

RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DVD & VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: 21ST Century Pictures

AUSTRALIAN DVD (rental) & VIDEO RELEASE: March 20, 2002







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