The Bomb
Review by Ross Anthony

Unelected President Emerson (Kevin Pollak) and entourage are snowed into a small town greasy spoon someplace in Colorado somewhere around the year 2008 and a few minutes after Hussein's son decides to blow away the handful of US peacekeeping troops in Iraq and reinvade Kuwait.

With Timothy Hutton as the president's right hand adviser (and old college buddy), and Sheryl Lee Ralph as military adviser; Pollak isn't interested in playing games with this foreign aggression. Remembering Bush's little escapade with that pesky older Hussein, Pollak cracks, "I'm not gonna just drop a couple of Tomahawks on Iraq and say 'How do you like dem apples?'"

IBS (the CNN of the future) cut-always fill us (the audience) in on this president's less than presidential appearance and demeanor at the culmination of his election campaign. Perhaps motivated by a hidden agenda or maybe because he's seeking to blow apart his "very second banana" aura, Pollak plays tough and threatens to drop the big one on Baghdad.

From there, the film plays like the 60's thriller "Fail Safe" where Henry Fonda negotiates with the Russian president via telephone while one of our accidentally launched warheads cruises toward Moscow. That, by the way, is a pretty good film and similarly thought provoking.

"Deterrence" is a little rough in the launch. In fact, you might suspect the whole invasion thing to be a hoax (a la, "Wag the Dog"), however, soon enough the slack in the rope tightens, pulling you in as it holds you tense. And even though the production never leaves that little diner, the strategic political and military scenarios, personalities, ethics and personal beliefs let fly like warheads from around the globe and entangle in a drama rich enough to fill the screen. Will he really release the first nuke in 60 years "wiping out a civilization where civilization began?" And if so will the pilots of that unlucky B2 lose their nerve? "More men have walked the moon than have done what we're about to do," they reveal to the president over an unsecured phone-line into the diner, "I guess that's why we get the big bucks."

Ironically the entertainment arc of this film follows that of a launched missile. Discussing the ending would defuse the picture, let's just say that I preferred the over all message of "Fail Safe" to my interpretation of "Deterrence." But as writer/director Rod Lurie asserts, this is a film open to many interpretations of which his and mine are only two.

[Interview with Writer/Director Rod Lurie]

  • Deterrence. Copyright © 2000.
  • Starring Kevin Pollak, Timothy Hutton, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Sean Astin, Bajda Djola, Mark Thompson, Michael Mantell, Kathryn Morris, Clotilde Courau, and Ryan Cutrona
  • Writer/Director Rod Lurie.
  • Produced by Marc Frydman and James Spies at Paramount Classics.


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:13:12 PDT