Deterrence (1999)

(On VHS, April 2001) A film with too many significant flaws to be classically good, but fortunately it’s got so many fascinating elements that it’s hard not to recommend it anyway. A political thriller with global repercussions set entirely on one set, Deterrence harkens back to the theater while going for the highest possible stakes. That in itself would be sufficient to make Deterrence a curio of the highest order. Could have been a great film too, if more care would have been given to the characters and the ending. While the president is ably interpreted by Kevin Pollack (looking a lot like a live-action The Critic) and the presidential staff is mostly well written, the clients of the diner are obviously meant to represent archetypical American views, but never rise above the status of stock cliché. Take, for instance, the French-Canadian waitress; it would have been easy for that character to raise the issue of a foreign national being present during high-stake brinkmanship, or even to raise tension when doubts are raised about the French government… but nothing ever comes out of it. Other missed opportunities abound. And the ending feels a lot like a cheat, simultaneously pulling out a hidden card while ignoring the consequences of it all. (Some of said consequences having previously been raised by the characters themselves!) And, of course, the limitations of the budget are matched by the limitations of the director, who doesn’t really impress by complex camera setups. Still, even after all of the above objections, Deterrence is worth a look if only for the audaciousness of the premise; a single-set global political thriller.

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