Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fred Dalton Thompson Finally Gets to Be President: "Last Best Chance" (2005)



Terrorists are turning stolen nuclear materials into bombs, and headed west to wipe out millions of American lives in this sometimes tense, sometimes preachy suspenser.

In a multi-plot storyline, nuclear materials are stolen from a Russian storehouse and distributed across Europe and Africa by Al-Qaeda. Simple but destructive nuclear devices are being built at a furious pace, and the American government, led by President Ross (Fred Dalton Thompson) tries to stop them with the help of his cabinet and the Russian president. As intelligence agencies pursue the bomb makers, the terrorists continue on their deadly quests, getting rid of cohorts who know too much, and eventually succeeding in getting the devices to their intended targets.

This film was released by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and was given away for free at lastbestchance.org. The entire point of the film is that nuclear terrorism is still a real possibility (the film was released in 2005), but as a piece of filmmaking, "Last Best Chance" is mediocre. The film plays like an action film without an action hero. It's "The Peacemaker" without George Clooney. We get generic Oval Office scenes, with Thompson chewing the scenery in a role he tried to play in real life. We have stone-faced henchmen transferring lethal cargo from one location to another. This really does play like an action film, but tries to be a cautionary political thriller, and may have been more effective as a documentary.

At the end of the fictional could-happen story, television news anchor Tom Brokaw has a brief conversation with Senator Richard Lugar and former senator Sam Nunn about the film and the possibility of a nuclear attack on the United States and its allies. This odd segment runs about fifteen minutes, and the men reiterate the dangers of unsecured nuclear materials, and how the film's situations could play out in real life.

Goddard's direction is feature-film good. He has some interesting but sometimes predictable angles, and the intensity on the actors' faces is both appropriate and telling. His screenplay is shackled by its message; nuclear terrorism is a real threat, and we can't rely on an indestructible NYC cop or a suave British agent to save the day. The cast are all fine, but with such a limited screen time, it's hard to get to know any of them, and again, the message is primary over characterization and story arcs.

Goddard's screenplay is not partisan, this is an international problem, and it's solutions are common sensical. Nunn and Lugar have joined with Brokaw in giving the subject attention, although you still rarely hear anything about nuclear terrorism in the year following the death of Osama Bin Laden, and the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All in all, "Last Best Chance" sets out to shine a light on a little-known but viable threat to our security. I am just wondering if a well-illustrated documentary on the subject would have carried more gravitas than a well shot, well meaning, but ultimately average dramatization. (* * *) out of five stars. Get this movie now!: Last Best Chance