You may encounter situations in your life for which there is no possible preparation. Luckily, movies are a great substitute for real-life experience. In Film School, we look at what television and movies can teach us about these unexpected scenarios.
If you haven’t heard last week’s big news then you must, ironically enough, be living in a cave in the mountainous region of Afghanistan, right next to where most people thought Bin Laden would be found. But as surprised as we all were that the world’s most wanted man was living in a Pakistani city known for its pleasant weather and military institutions, I’m sure no one was as surprised as his actual neighbors.
One of them even tweeted about all the ruckus in his neighborhood, without knowing what was going on. That must be, as Chris Angel would put it, quite the mind freak to wake up and realize that your casual complaints about noise pollution would become part of world history. Like if the car alarm going off at 2 am that I bitched about on Facebook turned out to be someone breaking into the car because Jimmy Hoffa’s body was stuffed in the trunk.
But if the people of Abbottabad did suspect anything, what could they have done? Obviously, they could have turned to several movies for sage and relevant advice about their next steps. Here are the ones I’d recommend.
Summary: Arlington Road stars Jeff Bridges as Michael Faraday, a college professor and widower whose wife was an FBI agent killed in a Ruby Ridge-like incident. When a new couple, played by Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack, move into town, Michael begins to suspect his neighbors of plotting a homegrown terrorist attack.
It’s a pretty crazy thing to think of your neighbors, but the suspicion is not unfounded. They’ve got weird blueprints around, it turns out they changed their names, and they’re always staring creepily.
After his girlfriend is killed in a “car accident,” Michael gets worried about his son. And rightfully so, because that kid turns out to be really easy to kidnap. When he’s taken on a “field trip” in a nondescript van, Michael follows the van into the FBI parking garage. There, he realizes that he was tricked into following the wrong van. And that’s when he finds the bomb in the trunk of his own car. MIND FREAK! The bomb goes off, and Michael is forever remembered as a terrorist who blew up the FBI building. Whoops.
Lesson Learned: In this instance, the lesson is clear…and weird. This particular terrorist organization was quite good at using people’s suspicions against them. So, if you suspect your neighbor of being a terrorist, do nothing. If someone kidnaps your son, don’t chase after them. Just do the opposite of what a normal person would do at every turn and you could just beat them at their own game.
Summary: Shia LaBeouf plays Kale (ugh, three of those four words are so annoying), a young troublemaker who ends up on house arrest after assaulting a teacher. At first he entertains himself with iTunes, Xbox Live and other sponsors of this film, but when his mother cancels all of his accounts he must entertain himself the old-fashioned way – by invading his neighbors’ privacy.
Kale and his friend, along with a pretty girl who starts hanging out with them for God knows what reason, begin to suspect one of their neighbors of being a serial killer. But the problem with serial killers (I mean, aside from the obvious) is that they’re pretty vigilant people, so the neighbor begins to notice that three teenagers are constantly spying on him.
And so Turner, the neighbor, drops by Kale’s house to flirt with his mom and casually threaten Kale. Sure that he’s right about Turner’s murderous tendencies, Kale does what any brave young man would do: he sends his friends to go investigate. They almost die, but get away. And when Turner comes after Kale, he’s able to kill him with some gardening shears. It’s a happy ending for everyone except all those bodies they found underneath that guy’s pool.
Lesson Learned: If you do decided to ignore the first lesson and get involved, consider sending someone else to do it. Fake a sprained ankle, or assault someone and get put on house arrest, so that you can convince your friends that you would totally go yourself, but you just can’t. Because let’s face it, if you’re right about this, you are breaking into the home a crazed killer. And what kind of person would do that? Someone else, hopefully.
Summary: Samuel L. Jackson plays Abel Turner, a racist cop who hates his new neighbors, an interracial young couple. Initially, he lets them know he’s not fond of them with some light harassment, including a floodlight that shines directly into their bedroom.
When that fails to drive them out of the neighborhood, he takes it up a notch by paying someone to break in and trash their home. This goes about as well as it usually does in movies, and the criminal-for-hire ends up dead. When the couple begins to suspect that Abel was behind the break-in, the whole ridiculous movie ends with a shoot out in the street, where the young husband gets shot – but lives – and Abel gets shot – and dies.
Lesson Learned: If your suspicions are confirmed and you know that your neighbor is a sociopath, just move. If the happiest possible ending you can expect from all of this is that you get shot but recover, there really isn’t a point to sticking this one out. Don’t try and get to the bottoms of things, don’t dig into his past, and definitely don’t shine a floodlight into his window since that will only make him madder. Just sell your house and move away.