[Quick Summary: Several stories, in 2 parts. After 9/11, the same line of questioning is used for 2 interrogations in 2 countries. One is "acceptable," the other is not.]
This script made me uncomfortable, and it should.
If I had to summarize the theme, it would be "Hypocrisy: You can dish it out, but you can't take it."
In one story, the writer uses parallel situations in the US and in China:
- When the US gov't questions and humiliates a character born in another country, it seems acceptable.
- But when China questions and humiliates a US character - with the exact same questions, tone, actions, etc. - it is unacceptable.
This is not a "feel good" or (apparently) popular film. But it is thought provoking.
(I wonder if it would have been different if it was a satire?)
I found that mere juxtaposition of the same dialogue for the US scenes and then the China scenes allows the audience to put 2+2 = Hypocrisy.
Also, the writer then added this scene as a summary of our attitude today. Note the visual irony of the last line:
ex. "EXT. BATTERY PARK/MANHATTAN - DAY
MCGRATH buys hot dog from VENDOR, as JOHN SCANLON, newspaper reporter, calls to him.
SCANLON: Yo, Ned --
MCGRATH turns, sees SCANLON, groans.
SCANLON (cont.): I hear you fellows made a bust today, arrested some terrorist.
MCGRATH: Who told you that?
SCANLON: I never reveal my sources. This terrorist --
MCGRATH (bites into hot dog): I don't know what you're talking about
SCANLON: Ned, come on --
MCGRATH: We haven't arrested anyone, that's the truth.
SCANLON: Are you holding anyone? Questioning anyone? Sticking a hot poker up some poor towel-head's ass?
MCGRATH (eats): No comment.
SCANLON: At least give me the schmuck's name --
MCGRATH: No comment. (eats) You know the way these "schmucks" manipulate the judicial system -- and the media -- to their advantage.
SCANLON: My editor's been biting off my dick. Tell me something --
MCGRATH: You give me your source, I'll see what I can do.
SCANLON shakes his head, frustrated.
SCANLON: Ned, come on, this is me. We've always helped each other out. I spin for you, you spin for me. Remember in Kazakhstan --
MCGRATH (finishes hot dog): Ancient history, pal, back before the flood.
MCGRATH tosses napkin into trash can, goes. On SCANLON, looking up at where the World Trade Center used to be...
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I need to be more aware of how the juxtaposition of scenes (A, B, C) build on one another (A+B+C) to equal (= D) what I want the audience to conclude.
Strip Search (2004)(final draft; dated April 24, 2003)*
by Tom Fontana
*This was a tv movie on HBO, directed by Sidney Lumet.