Wrong Is Right (1982)

Director: Richard Brooks
Starring: Sean Connery, Katherine Ross, George Grizzard, Robert Conrad, Hardy Kruger, John Saxon, Henry Silva, Leslie Nielson, Robert Webber, Dean Stockwell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Music: Artie Kane
Based on the novel, The Better Angels by Charles McCarry

When Wrong Is Right was first released in the cinemas in Australia it was released as The Man With The Deadly Lens, obviously to make it sound more Bond-like. And it worked, I couldn’t wait to see it. When I finally did, I was I disappointed. As an action film, it was pretty disjointed and light on for action. And the plot was so tortuous, it made the regular Bond films look straight forward and linear. But there was more to Wrong Is Right than I probably picked up. I was in my mid teens and must admit, a lot of the comedy elements went right over my head.

Sean Connery plays Patrick Hale a globe trotting television reporter. He is a man who is welcome everywhere as long as he brings his camera along. One of the maxims of the movie is ‘it doesn’t happen unless it happens on TV’. He has access to everyone, from the President of the USA, to crazed fanatical terrorists. All of them want their story told by Hale. Hale’s latest breaking story is about a Sheik who claims to have heard voices in the desert. These voices are telling him to give nuclear bombs to a terrorist group who will use them on the USA. Providing these weapons is unscrupulous weapons dealer, Helmut Unger (Hardy Kruger).

The film touches upon how television can manipulate reality for personal gain, not only for the people being interviewed or presenting their argument, but also by the presenters who can exploit these ‘stories’ for ratings.

Time has has had a strange effect on this movie. It now seems almost prophetic. When it was released it was a a black comedy about a world gone mad, with terrorists committing violent atrocities on television. Here we are in the twenty first century, and the world has in fact, gone mad. The extremes shown in this movie, now happen every day in the Middle East and other parts of the world. The difference today is that the internet, as a form of mass communication, has taken over from television. Terrorists no longer need television or a reporter to announce their views or perform an act of rebellion. Today you can do it yourself and put it on YouTube.

So where does that leave Wrong Is Right? With the visual impact muted, we’ve seen it all before (and worse) on the six o’clock news, what we are left with is a political thriller with some rather silly dialogue – for example, courtesy of General Wombat (Robert Conrad): ‘America may not always be right, but it is never wrong!’ That’s not to say the film is not entertaining. It is, and carried very easily by Connery’s charisma, but the themes it explores; terrorism and the world’s dependence on television is outdated. ‘It doesn’t happen unless it happens on TV’ doesn’t apply to a world where a person carrying a mobile phone can film the next ‘breaking’ news story. I am not saying that he film is soft either. It’s just that over the last twenty-five years, we the viewing public, have been ‘hardened’ by the real world. We do not shock as easily.

I am sure as technology advances, and means of communication change, my comments too will become outdated. Equally with each passing year, Wrong Is Right will appear more and more anachronistic. Maybe the film will become a time capsule.

In the end, Wrong Is Right is a film worth viewing. If you’re a fan of Connery (like I am), you’ll probably find this to be one of his more interesting but less successful films. And the film certainly makes you think, or at least re-evaluate all the things you see on the news now. Comparisons between the current goings-on in the Middle East and Bush Administration are inevitable. But the film is uneven, and at times, too convoluted for it’s own good. Viewers with short attention spans, could easily get confused, and ultimately bored with the story.

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