Wrong is Right (1982) a (very) belated review

Back in the 1960’s and at the height of the Cold War, director Stanley Kubrick decided to make a movie that focused on the horror of a nuclear conflict.  I’ve read that as Mr. Kubrick worked on the script for that then upcoming film, he kept finding humor -black humor, but humor nonetheless- in the very real possibility of an accidental nuclear war, a decidedly odd focus given the horror the common citizen felt at the time regarding the proliferation of those weapons of mass destruction.  The end result, 1964’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb, proved an absolute masterpiece of jet black comedy and is easily one of Mr. Kubrick’s best films.

So, one wonders, might there be another director out there who, upon looking at the events surrounding 9/11 and the second Iraqi war, might not also look at the myriad tragedies involved, from the thousands upon thousands dead, the loss of national treasure, the inept leadership, the media manipulation, and the very questionable motivations for engaging in the conflict in the first place…and decide that this too might be good material in the creation of a black comedy?

Thing is, someone already did, and they did it a whopping 20 years before the events of 9/11 and the subsequent Iraqi War.

I’m talking about 1982’s Wrong Is Right.  As directed by Richard Brooks, the movie features Sean Connery in the role of Patrick Hale, an intrepid, world famous reporter who, in the process of criss-crossing the globe, comes to realize he’s landed himself smack dab in the middle of machinations involving the CIA, an Arabian leader whose land is filled with oil, a weapons dealer, a terrorist intent on getting his hands on two mysterious suitcases, and a U.S. presidential election.

The various parties involved actively try to manipulate the story Hale perceives and tells, and ultimately what may appear “true” becomes a matter of convenience.  To go into too much detail about the story’s plot would be a disservice.

Having said that, this now 30 year old film is incredibly prescient.  With some minor modifications, this could easily be a black comedy “take” on the buildup to the Iraqi War.  The most eerie element of the whole thing is that the movie’s climax takes place on the roof of the World Trade Center.

Yes, the World Trade Center.

As wild a coincidence -or prognostication- as all this is, Wrong is Right is simply not as good a film as one would have hoped.

Sean Connery, usually a very reliable actor, is strangely ineffective in his performance.  Likewise, most of the actors involved in the movie turn in either bland or forgettable performances.  Robert Conrad is given one of the better small roles as General Wombat, the President’s military advisor.  He’s presented as a wild-eyed yet clear speaking lunatic whose chief advice to the President is to push the button and end the nonsense once and for all.  Alas, we don’t see nearly enough of him -or characters like him- throughout the film and, ultimately, Wrong is Right winds up being a black comedy that simply isn’t as funny as one would hope.

Yet, despite its flaws, I can’t entirely dismiss it.

In the end, I would cautiously recommend Wrong is Right to viewers who are intrigued with the idea of seeing a film that manages to be as prescient as this one is.  Just don’t expect the movie to be anywhere near as good as Dr. Strangelove.

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