"The Deal" -- A Peak Oil "Day After Tomorrow"?
Last summer, The Day After Tomorrow added some momentum to a growing conversation about the effects of global warming. While the science of the movie was, at best, murky, many of its themes (of human-caused climate disasters, the intransigence of politicians, and the heroic role of scientists) were sufficiently on-target that quite a few environmentally-focused websites and organizations used the film as a way to spread their own messages. At the time, we suggested that The Day After Tomorrow might be the first of a trend of movies with an environmental edge.
The Deal may be the next in that trend. The movie is set a few years in the future, with the US at war with the Confederation of Arab States, gasoline in hitting $6/gallon and the economy on the verge of collapse. Reviewers call it dark, dense and cynical; it's not as sprawling nor as effects-laden as The Day After Tomorrow, but in its own way, it's also a movie about the end of the world.
In The Deal, Christian Slater is a rising executive in a Wall Street investment firm; Selma Blair is a recent hire, a Harvard graduated ecological activist convinced to give "changing the system from within" a try. A shady energy deal unravels into something worse, and soon the Russian mafia, big oil companies, and big finance pull out the knives. The Deal mixes car chases, politics and a typical Hollywood dose of attractive people in danger. The film was written by Ruth Epstein, who worked for 10 years on Wall Street at Goldman Sachs, with advice from oil and gas industry expert David Leuschen, and is said to be dense with information -- as Roger Ebert put it in his review, ' It's not in every thriller that you hear someone say, "Oil is a fungible commodity."'
The website for The Deal has links to the usual film goodies -- cast bios, trailer (5.7mb WMV), the like -- but is also filled with links to books and websites about the oil and energy industries, with a particular focus on the "peak oil" argument. One look at the website shows that the movie is not a major studio production; Epstein and director Harvey Kahn decided that they didn't want the film changed by studio executives, so raised money on their own to make the movie. As a result, it isn't in wide release: it's currently playing at a few theaters in Boston, Chicago, LA, New York, San Francisco and DC. Reviews from major papers are linked on the site, and most are positive. The Oil Drum, a peak oil issue blog, reviews it as well, and while it has some reservations about the film, it too has an encouraging take.
Whether the film gets wider release than just a handful of big cities depends on how well it does this weekend. If you're in one of the target areas, you may want to check it out. If you do, please post your reactions in the comments for this post.