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observation notes: The 9/11 Commission Report

This one's a doozy. Based on the events and theories published in the official 9/11 Commission Report, writer/director/Asylum mainstay Leigh Scott crafted this multi-plot political thriller featuring virtually every star in the Asylum's universe. The names have been changed (looooooosely) to protect the, well, I'm not sure, but the names are a little different, probably a legal thing.

The film begins 28 days before the attacks with an obviously militant foreign man seeking 747 flight simulator training. He pays the six-grand fee in cash, American for "no questions asked," and, naturally, for that price they're willing to show him everything. But he's interested in "just flying." Uh-huh. They even let him pick a specific flight plan. 

Jump now to the District, fall of '98, with the handing down of an indictment for our Bin Laden character. This scene serves to inform us of something that - however we know or think of it - we already know, that our government knew about Bin Laden, knew what he was up to, knew what he was capable of and how he became capable of it, and knew his over-arcing plans. But now that there was this indictment, all we had to do was get him to trial. He's still years from being able to orchestrate terrorist plots of a catastrophic magnitude, so there's plenty of time, should be a piece of cake. Umm-hmm.

Jump even further back to Manila in 1995, where the Philippines' government is "interrogating" a suspected Middle Eastern terrorist. An American shows up to lend a hand - to the Philippine side of things - and pretso!, the fella's no longer suspected, he's a full-on terrorist, with secrets hinting at some sort of broad attack in-planning.

Jump yet again back to '98, but Pakistan now (where I got 47 hits the other week! thanks guys!), where members of a terrorist cell roll with the punches and think on their suspected feet.

2001 again (whew), flight training, our foreign guy has started to raise eyebrows with his line of rather blatant questioning about fuel payloads, geography, specific landmarks, and by only flying simulated routes to DC and New York, and even worrying aloud about how accurate the simulator is. At long last the FBI is called in, but things almost get further inept from there, as the best the agent can determine in an opening conversation with the foreign man is that he's from "the Middle East." "Where?" the agent follows up. "The Middle East," the man repeats - conversation over. Niiiiice.

Onward, or backward, I guess, to Israel in '98 where the special agent working to locate Bin Laden seeks out a reporter/lover with info on a man who has info on the location of Bin Laden. We follow the agent to Afghanistan and the meeting with this man. Dude's willing to take Bin Laden out for us, all the wetwork himself, he's practically begging to do it, dropping lines like, "New York, that's where they're going to strike next." It literally doesn't get any more literal than that. And this is the one issue I had with an otherwise interesting script, that it's a little too literal in spots with how obvious the signs may have been, but, admittedly, for all my ignorant ass knows, it was this obvious and I'm just being an uninformed, nit-picky jerk who should read his own links; the possibility exists.

These separate cogs continue to spin back and forth through time, closer and closer to the inevitable, tragic ending. There are no spoilers here, ultimately, but how the film arrives at its conclusion is intriguing enough - no matter how familiar you are with the facts/"facts" - to cause me invoke my ever-present "no spoilers" statute.

I've already called the film interesting and intriguing, and it is, both in and of itself, and for its position in the greater Asylum catalog. This film is not what I was expecting, I'll be honest; I was expecting some sensational, disaster-ridden, conspiracy-rich action-fest, and it's none of those things, and this is a good thing. Leigh Scott truly has crafted something unique here, something intimate and exhilarating, intense and thought-provoking. The timeline, disjointed as I've probably made it sound, was not disjointing to watch, and moved at a pace that kept every scene fresh and important, thanks primarily to the fact that this film's based on acting, not action, and for this one, as mentioned, everybody came out. 

Dig this lineup: Rhett Giles (Way of the Vampire, Frankenstein Reborn, War of the Worlds), Marat Glazer (Shapeshifter, Supercroc, Dracula's Curse), Sarah Lieving (Monster, The Beast of Bray Road, King of the Lost World), Jeff Denton (The Beast of Bray Road, King of the Lost World, The Hitchhiker), Griff Furst (Transmorphers, Alien Abduction, Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers), Eliza Swenson (Transmorphers, Frankenstein Reborn, Dragon), AJ Castro (Snakes on a Train, The Da Vinci Treasure), Christina Rosenberg (The Beast of Bray Road, Dracula's Curse, King of the Lost World), Kim Little (Killers, Killers 2, War of the Worlds 2, Supercroc), Michael Tower (Invasion of the Pod People, The Apocalypse, 30,000 Leagues Under the Sea), Jason S. Gray (Universal Soldiers, AVH, The Da Vinci Treasure) and a delightful but brief cameo from Erica Roby (Invasion of the Pod People, The Hitchhiker, Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers.) 


And everybody - I mean everybody - is acting above the bar, turning it on and delivering rock-solid performances. Jeff Denton? Awesome. Kim Little? Awesome. Sarah Lieving? Awesome. Rhett Giles? Awesome. Are you noticing a pattern here? Fuck yes you are, because they're all awesome. This is Leigh Scott's doing, weaving like directing greats Stanley Kramer and Robert Altman a complex, multi-layered and -perspective drama that never lags, never snags, and never gives in to the tempting pitfall of sensationalism, residing instead in the terse, stark and enthralling realm of historical thrillers.

Now, I realize this is a highly-charged and polarizing topic, so I won't dare wax philosophic one way or the other, but wherever you land in this debate - who knew what when, who could have stopped what, who actually did what - you have to give The Asylum credit for the balls it took to make this one. While Hollywood was kowtowing to vox populi rallying films like United 93, and the conspiracy "enthusiasts" were flooding the market with makeshift documentaries out to undermine anything official, The Asylum threaded the needle and dared to blend these perspectives and make a serious film about the serious doubts that exist in this most horrific of events. The result is a sweeping, epic film that becomes the most ambitious and serious production undertaken by The Asylum to date. It's a hardcore thriller and a globe-hopping adventure that's engaging, though-provoking, and proof positive that The Asylum knows the rules and knows how to play by them; most of the time, they just don't care. No "mock" or "tie-in" anything here, this film is the real deal, and a real winner.

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