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Deterrence
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Product Description

Deterrence offers a welcome throwback to such sweaty-palmed chamber pieces as Fail-Safe and Twelve Angry Men, and in his debut as writer-director, Rod Lurie, a West Point graduate and former film critic, has crafted a taut, one-set drama that would have been ideal for live television. With its provocative what-if scenario and a sharp cast confined to a claustrophobic space, this movie's more clever than coherent, but it grabs your attention for 103 briskly paced minutes.

The year is 2008, and U.S. President Walter Emerson (Kevin Pollak) has something to prove. He wasn't elected (he took office upon the death of the previous president), and he needs a pivotal boost in a current primary election. While he and his entourage are trapped under heavy snowfall in a tiny Colorado diner, Emerson must decide whether to unleash a nuclear arsenal on the son of Saddam Hussein, who has invaded Kuwait and taken hundreds of American lives. With his chief of staff (Timothy Hutton), top advisers, and a cluster of terrified diners, Emerson sorts through his options as tensions come to a boil.

This all works well on the surface, and Deterrence gains depth by depicting a president who is potentially as evil as his unseen enemy. But the film is almost fatally vague (clearly Lurie wants viewers to bring their own interpretation to these events) and ends with a twist that's too contrived to be dramatically satisfying. Until that point, however, Deterrence will certainly keep you engaged. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews:

  • High suspense
    As I write this, this film is over six years old and turns out to be remarkably prophetic. It's a relatively low budget piece, taking place on a single set in a diner, where the President has been stranded with a few staff members and a few odd customers. The President is forced to deal with a Middle East flare up involving Iraq and nuclear weapons . . . not Iran, but close enough to give one pause considering the current world scene.

    This is indeed a "thinking person's" feast. Without picking apart the various production shortcomings (the worst was the overplayed "Redneck" customer in the diner), the crux of the film is what happens when America's nuclear hegemony evaporates in the face of the emergence of an equally devastating force . . . and the will to use it. America's response will be greatly colored by the personal character of the President.

    I won't dicuss any more of the story so as not to ruin the film for anyone that hasn't seen it. Give this a try. Plenty of suspense, quite thought-provoking, and Kevin Pollack is brilliant as President Emerson. ...more info
  • Outstanding film
    I saw this film as a part of a film class and was able, as a result, to discuss it with several members of the production staff. Deterrence is a rare film in that it is a political thriller that dares to cross global moral boundaries that many hold sacred. You find yourself often in disbelief and shock but the ending of the film will be the most shocking of all. The writing here is just first class as is the acting. I never knew what was going to happen next and was just glued to my seat.If you are looking for a film with lots of fancy camera angles, multiple settings and special effects, let me assure you this is NOT the film. If however, you are interested in an engaging piece of cinema that is well written, well acted, creative and keeps you riveted to the screen in anticaption of the next move, I cannot suggest a better film....more info
  • Great Political Movie
    I saw this movie years ago, before our involvement in our current sturggles in Afganistan and Iraq. The movie is good, but the ending makes it great - I love when movies do that! After watching again, was interesting to see how Iraq and our current struggles relate. If you like to keep up on politics, this is a good movie to watch. ...more info
  • Intelligent stage play for strategists
    Statistically, only 5% of the population is predisposed to enjoy the process of strategy. The movie Deterrence is a crafty, devious gem targeted squarely at that minority.

    The joy of this type of film is that the audience's intelligence is leveraged, not diminished. It's assumed that viewers can keep pace as strategic option are rapidly surfaced, evaluated, and discarded. Jargon is used contextually, never dumbed down or explained; thus audiences get the feeling that they're witnessing the elite at work. Viewers are challenged to identify, not with action, but with the thinking process of a leader faced with extraordinary constraints, and with plenty of conflicting advice.

    If all this sounds good, then Deterrence is a film for you. As is always the case with such movies, the format is a well-scripted stage play on a single set. There are no SFX; everything rests on the talent and on the expressive intelligence of the actors. The crew of Deterrence rises to the occasion, especially Kevin Pollack, who distinguishes himself with quiet assurance as the interim President who launches nuclear war on Iraq.

    In conclusion, this is not a film for everyone, and especially not for action lovers. On the other hand, Deterrence should please the thinking crowd -- David Mamet fans, for instance. Those viewers who appreciated the more strategic and devious episodes of the TV series La Femme Nikita, should also give Deterrence a try....more info

  • Did we watch the same movie as the other reviewers?
    This is one of the worst movies we have seen in a long time. A totally improbable and unbelievable plot, laughable acting, and a budget that compares with the Blair Witch project. Save yourselves, run for cover!...more info
  • Too many mistakes
    I am writing this as I watch the movie. The more I watch, the lower the review gets for the below reasons.

    The whole beginning of the movie is off, because of the huge gaping mistakes in regards to our weapons systems. It is totally unrealistic, as they describe weapons we do not have, and do not know simple geographic layouts of the countries involved (one does not have to fly over Saudi Arabia to enter Iraq...Iraq has a coast on the Persian Gulf.) They bring in religious aspects from a very basic and infantile understanding when the waitress begins to speak with the President. The movie dialogue is very poorly written and thought-out. The discussions of the use of nuclear weapons are very abrupt, and completely unrealistic. These discussions of nuclear weapons usage are based on myths and uneducated/unresearched ideas of peoples' fears of what happens, without regard to the true checks and balances in place. The movie denigrates the USAF Academy, and assumes the president of the US has no knowledge of nuclear options. Instead of discussing the issues surrounding the use of nuclear weapons, the president discusses weather, colleges people attended, sports people played, religion, and talked to his daughter about school. The description of nuclear tests is wholly inaccurate (underestimated). This is after a poor transition between high school sports and nuclear weapon use ethics. This causes the president to finally become pensive about his previous threats of nuclear war. The movie assumes Iraq has the ability to strike the US with weapons from Iraq. This is wholly unrealistic. A person in the diner is allowed to spew a litanny of racial slurs to the president, and he speaks to him in a conciliatory way, rather than dealing with him realistically as a person in authority. The presdident in the movie says "I have binoculars and a keyboard, and I have no idea what to do." The highest security clearance topics are supposedly discussed in front of a large group of civilians. 30 seconds from bomb release, and the president begins talking about football to an Australian from NE US. I won't continue on with further huge mistakes, because they compromise the ending of the movie, assuming one wants to see this.

    Basically, nuclear war is trivialized by this movie. So is the command and control aspects involved. Not a cliff-hanger, but a scare-tactic to renew a fear of military constraints on the weapons' use. The movie is what one would assume the procedures would be if a bunch of kids were in charge of dealing with nuclear weapons and the planning of their use. Even the most vehemently opposed person to nuclear weapons could not realistically believe this is a realistic movie. Acting was horrible and unrealistic. The whole movie was shot within a diner. There is no suspense, just bad acting and an obvious lack of any knowledge of anything military....more info
  • Hollywood: pay attention!
    There's no wild car chases in this film. No high-tech special effects, no nubile teenage girls or vampires or serial killers. Gee, no wonder no one went to see this film!

    And that is such a shame. "Deterrence" is one of those films that sets no grandiose expectations, so when you finally see it, you will be caught like a deer in headlights -- and by the time the final credits roll, you will be emotionally drained.

    Almost like a stage play, "Deterrence" is set entirely in a roadside diner in rural Aztec, Colorado. American President Emerson is doing some last-minute campaigning for the primaries before the polls close when he and his entourage are trapped by a ferocious blizzard. They seek shelter in the diner.

    Emerson is not an elected president. He was the VP until the sitting president -- an extremely popular one -- passed away. Now, he's seeking his party's nomination and to be voted in on a mandate from the people.

    The movie is set in 2007 and the political climate of the world has changed dramatically. The Middle East is no longer considered a hot bed of unrest. Saddam Huessen has passed away and his son now rules Iraq. However, relations between Japan and China are tense, as well as things on the Korean peninsula. China just may be on the verge of invading Japan. Consequently, most of America's armed forces are stationed in that part of the world, not the Middle East.

    While holed up in the diner and following election results on TV, the President receives word that the young Huessen has led a Republican Guard force of a half-million troops into Kuwait and has taken over. He's now poised to invade Saudi Arabia and has both chemical and biological weapons at the ready. The US, with its troops now out of the Gulf, will need nearly 10 days to respond. That's way too long. They need someone there now!

    One other thing: I didn't want to reveal this, but another reviewer already did (and I say shame on them because it's a critical plot point): President Emerson is Jewish. This isn't revealed until halfway through the movie. Add this to the fact that he's not an "elected" president and you can image the obstecles he faces as he tries to negotiate with the Arabs.

    Kevin Pollack, a wonderful stand-up comic and occasional actor plays the role of the president. (You may recall Pollack's terrifc performance in "The Usual Suspects.") This role should be a defining moment in his career and if there was any justice in the world, he'd receive an Oscar nomination. His performance is very measured and touched with such great nuance it's startling. Pollack's Emerson is a man of great integrity and strength, now facing a choice no human being should ever be forced to make. In fact, one of the citizens stranded in the diner charges, "You've got no right to do this!" But Pollack, as Emerson, repsonds, "No, you're wrong. I'm the ONLY one who has the right to do this!"

    To do what? Ahhh - to say would be to give away too much of the plot. But the moral questions that confront this president leave you checking your own compass and I found my stomach twisting into knots on occasion.

    Timothy Hutton gives a wonderfully manic performance as Emerson's mercenary Chief of Staff and Sheryl Lee Ralph is fine as the National Security Advisor.

    As I said, though all the action takes place in the diner, there are enough subplots, twists, turns and surprises to keep you welded to your seat waiting breathlessly to see what happens next.

    This is not a movie one can watch casually. It requires full attention because most of the story is told through David Mamet-like dialogue, delivered by the actors in brisk, staccato bursts. If you miss anything, some plot points may be hard to conceive, but let me assure you: this is a marvelous screenplay -- crisp and tight. There's no plot holes and everything that happens is frighteningly plausable.

    One previous reviewer complains about the fact that the "big" secret revealed at the end of the film was known only to the president and not his staff. He thinks that seemed implausable.

    What he apparently missed was this: This "secret" was told to Emerson while he was STILL vice president. It was told to him by the president while on his death bed. Emerson and the president, whose shoes he is trying to fill, were very close. It was a mentor/protege-type of relationship.

    As the movie develops, it becomes clear that Emerson, due to the odd political position he finds himself in, does not entirely trust his staff and is a man more likely to make his own decisions. When he finally reveals the breathtaking climatic "secret" in the closing moments of the film, we definitely say, "Oh, wow!" rather than, "Oh, puhleese!" I thought to myself, "I would have kept that secret away from these guys too!" Additionally, there is one rather major hint at one point during the film that points to the President's secret, though you won't realize it till the film is over. I will say this: it involves the French (now who would have guessed that?!).

    "Deterrence," while packed with suspence, crackling dialogue and outstanding performances, is definitely a thinking-man's film. And I guarantee you will be thinking about it for days!

    Rent it... video tape or DVD, it doesn't matter. Chances are, you will then want to buy it and add it to your collection....more info

  • Great Movie! Almost phrophecy fulfilled!!!
    WoW! I first saw this movie when it released and thought it was an above average drama even then.
    However, after seeing it again recently, I realize that it was very forward thinking and ahead of its time as well.
    It was right on regarding the current Iraq situation, and is actually quite realistic regarding policy in a post-911 world.
    Kevin Pollack is very believable as a non-elected President, and the 'Diner-esque' way the movie is filmed works well within this type of a drama.
    If you like dramas about war and politics and also like intrigue, watch this movie...more info
  • Good film, but it has a couple of annoying flaws
    I first saw the preview for this movie on the internet. It looked great! It never made it to a theatre near me so I've been waiting for the video. I finally saw it last night.

    Deterrence is about an unelected President (ala Gerald Ford) who must deal with another invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 2007, by Saddam Hussein's son. The President is stuck in a diner in Colorado during a blizzard, so must deal with the situation there with a few telephones and local people around, and one news cameraman. The president decides that issuing a threat on global TV of using a 100 megaton bomb on Bagdad would be effective to make the Iraqis turn back. It doesn't turn out to be quite that easy.

    I won't reveal any more, but it makes for good cinema similar to such movies as Fail Safe.

    My one big gripe is that "the secret" revealed at the end is only known to the President. His top advisers, including NSA and Joint Chiefs of Staff apparently have no clue about it, which I find to be absolutely unbelievable given what the secret is....more info

  • Best Movie/Best Picture quality and an A+Rating
    Deterrence should have received an academy award for Best Picture, Best Director and Best leading actor Kevin Pollak. This was a very well written, well thought out, very believeable movie that will grab your mind and you by the seat of your pants and keep you on the edge of your seat to the very end. This is the kind of movie you will want to see more than once. You will probably want to have your own dvd to watch it again and again. This movie is nothing less than exceptional good intertainment. I give this movie my AA+ rating. The story, the acting and the directing, in this low budget movie is nearly flawless and deserves the highest praise. Very well done. This movie was well worth every minute of my time to see it. Truly, one of the best of the best movies I have ever had the pleasure to see. Everyone should see this movie at least once or twice in their life time. Buy two dvds and hand one out to your family, friends and neighbors to see. ...more info
  • Great Movie! Almost phrophecy fulfilled!!!
    WoW! I first saw this movie when it released and thought it was an above average drama even then.
    However, after seeing it again recently, I realize that it was very forward thinking and ahead of its time as well.
    It was right on regarding the current Iraq situation, and is actually quite realistic regarding policy in a post-911 world.
    Kevin Pollack is very believable as a non-elected President, and the 'Diner-esque' way the movie is filmed works well within this type of a drama.
    If you like dramas about war and politics and also like intrigue, watch this movie...more info
  • Smart dialogue, excellent actors. But not for everyone.
    Rod Lurie's most recent films, Deterrence and The Contender, are struggling to find the right target audience. Conservatives openly hate Lurie's liberal philosophies; but liberals may be turned off by his unapologetic way of exposing power, deceit, and deal-making behind closed doors.

    This director clearly has talent. His scripts are whip-smart, he's a keen observer of the mechanics of power, and he has a knack for pushing well known actors to higher levels.

    But Lurie seems to hold little appeal among the masses. His films are better suited to viewers who like strategy and have a strong tolerance for ambiguity. In this regard, Lurie's works break with American tradition, revealing instead a stronger affinity with British dramas like The Lion in Winter, A Man for All Seasons, or Becket...more info

  • Deterrence
    An OUTSTANDING film, and I dare say no more because I don't think you'll publish it. It should be shown on prime-time TV and ACLU, Islamic Societies, or whoemever be darned!. The colors of our flag do NOT run - that is what this film is all about....more info
  • Promising and engaging film
    An intellectual drama about the ethics of war, this movie had its flaws but was definitely engaging. The story is set not too far in the future during presidential primaries. The current president has only been in office a few months after the death of the president. He was appointed and not elected, and his popularity is precarious. He is stuck in a cafe in Colorado during a snowstorm when military moves in Iraq threaten to undermine the U.S. and United Nations. Not everything in the movie rang true, but Pollak is excellent, and the movie confronted very real ethical issues about war, racism, responsibility, power and politics. The film was more about asking questions than forcing an agenda. The film definitely tackled the dilemma of individual conscience and collective duty, the individual as autonomous and as a citizen (in some ways reminiscent of A Man for All Seasons). The viewer is left to draw his/her own conclusions about whether the president's decisions were correct. If anything, the film reveals how complex decisions of war can be, and it made me wonder how many of our political and personal decisions are still colored by discrimination and fear. It is definitely a film about greys, not black and white....more info
  • Fanciful plot developments but well done
    The Vice President has become President by appointment a la former President Ford. He has been President only four months, and is campaigning for election for the first time in his own right. In Colorado during primary season, a blizzard maroons him and his small entourage in a diner. Then, stuff hits the fan in another part of the world possibly presaging major nuclear calamity. How does he handle it?

    That is the plot premise and the story unfolds well-acted and grippingly. It was like a book one can not put down. There are numerous byplays - the Secret Service and the people in the diner, the President and his staff, the Prez and foreign heavies, the press, and so forth. A low-budget affair, shot almost entirely in that diner and with nil whiz-bang special effects, writing and acting carry the day.

    Yes, what happens in this tale stretches the imagination, and only for that reason do I give this film four stars vice five. Still, if you like stories which grab and hold you, this compact film is worth your time....more info

  • Good Acting, Good Directing, Good Movie
    The year is 2008, and it's an election year. It is also a year where the Blizzard to end all Blizzards hits a small town in Colorado. As the film starts (in Black and White I might add) we find ourselves in a small diner populated only by 3 customers, a waitress, and its owner. In walks the President of the United States, his staff, and security just to get out of the storm (we now switch to color). While watching the televised returns, a special bulletin advises that Sadam Hussane's son has invaded Kuwait (damn that family never learns....).

    There is a cameraman from a CNN-type network with the President and with the aid of electronic uplinks, the president is able to make a speech to the US, and the world. We learn that our conventional military is no where near it's 1991 size or strength, and what there is of our military is stuck in Korea. So the President lays it on the line to the population of Baghdad. Either Baghdad's military stops immediately, the leader turns himself in to a US embassy within 1.5 hours....or he drops a thermonuclear device on Baghdad. Sort of your simple every day fix.

    For what happens next buy/rent the movie. It is a great watch with a great twist at the end that you don't see coming. Kevin Polack is great in this movie as the President of the United States. You see him in a performance that you have never seen him in before. This is a dramatic movie with some humorous moments. Polack's line relating to a sharp shooter out in the blizzard had me on the floor!

    From the time you come into the Diner, you never leave. It is a one-set movie very much like `TWELVE ANGRY MEN'. Very well done.

    In my entire life, I can count on both hands the number of films that I have watched more than once. I rented this film and watched it 3 times over the weekend, rented it again, and expect to go out tonight to get the film again. Each time I find something new that I missed the first time. For example JUNE LOCKHART gets pretty good billing in the opening credits. The second time I watched I noticed the credit but never saw her in the film. During the 2nd viewing I realized that June plays a member of the Presidents staff and you only hear her voice on via the telephone.

    Hey what more can I say.....I liked it, and I believe that you will too.

    Enjoy-it's a good `watch'....more info

  • Movie
    Arrived promptly.Thank you. Fantastic movie. Bunch of liberal critics gave it bad reviews as it puts forth a cold hard option in stopping war. I hope it is an option we never use!...more info
  • Powerful Piece
    Rod Lurie's "Deterrence" is an extremely overwhelming film in which Kevin Pollak stars as the US President faced with the possibility of having to detonate Baghdad after an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait....more info
  • this movie stunk
    Saddam Hoosane's son makes war and advances on Kuwait no less while the president gets stuck in a diner during a bad snowstorm....more info
  • Refreshing!
    I gave this movie a well deserved 5 stars as it proves that you certainly do not need big names and a big budget to make an intelligent, first class movie. I stumbled accross it by chance about a year ago whilst at home in the evening watching T.V. I'd never heard of it before which is most unusual seeing I consider myself to be a huge movie fanatic. It's like when you watch a horror movie and you never quite get to see the killers face, far more scary. Same principal here as you never go face to face with the enemy, or see any dramatic special effects which often are way over the top and don't look very realistic. Instead, you are left with your imagination of the true horror of what could quite possibly happen. The twist at the end is perhaps a bit far fetched, but who cares, I loved it. Fast paced, tense, gripping, unpredictable and all set in a diner - Bizzare!...more info
  • This movie is surprisingly good.
    I've always like Pollack's work. Everytime I see him, I'm rarely disappointed. This time I was pleasantly surprised. This movie will keep you on the edge of your seat....more info
  • Edge of your seat thriller
    It all takes place in a Colorado small town diner. The president has choices to make that puts our nation in more peril than The Cuban Missile Crisis. His advisers and the townspeople all have their opinions that they give to the president.

    It has a great ending. Very satisfying plot....more info