TWO STARS - Weak
Having spent eighteen years in public service as an elected official, I (Hal) have little respect for films which propagate an unrealistic fear of the people who serve us. In much the same way as I (Denny) find it offensive when a film portrays clergy in empty caricatures void of authentic depth, films which distort government causes us both concern.
What becomes of our sense of civic stewardship when the general public becomes the victims of a distorted image of public servants? What happens to the soul of America when millions of people continue to see films that pump up the adrenaline by characterizing those in control of the highest office in our land as low lives with no morals? We know that this sickness has permeated our culture when we begin to hear our own friends and neighbors mimic these same doubts and fears.
A prime example of this concern is with the film “Shadow Conspiracy.” Rather than authentically exploring power and the possibility of people in government abusing this power, this film is not only a weak story but is a gross misrepresentation of the way government operates.
The two greatest fears of a populace in relation to their government seem to be the possibility of a shadow government and a conspiratorial coup.
This first fear is that our elected officials are not in fact in charge, but there is a shadow government - a power behind the throne - calling the shots. Whether that power is in the form of a special advisor, a special interest group or a leader’s mate, the concern is that someone other than the one chosen by the people has somehow gained the reigns of control.
In “Shadow Conspiracy” the shadow rests in the person of the White House Chief of Staff Jacob Conrad (Donald Sutherland). He, along with a select group of government leaders, have united together to impose their will on the President and Congress. Now in his second term as President, the President is preparing to initiate his own programs for the provision of jobs and educational opportunity. This direction is not in agreement with the shadow government, and leads then to the second fear, that of a conspiratorial coup.
An overthrow of legitimate government by illegitimate means is nothing new within the governments of the world. The fear that it could happen in our own nation is a concern played upon by the film, but with no depiction of either the depth of the controls on government officials or the acknowledgement of the power of a free press.
The result of such inattention leaves the film pitifully weak and uninteresting. But it could, for the uninformed, breed a fear of government which can increase the distrust and resulting lack of participation within our nation.
That is our greatest concern.
All democracies must operate not only with necessary protections against the abuse of power, but also with the trust of involved citizens. Such films as “Shadow Conspiracy” are destructive to the democratic process.
Conspiratorial theories flourish in environments in which there is both a distrust of elected officials and a sense of one’s own powerlessness. This paranoid reaction toward government then increases when talk shows and newsletters fuel conspiratorial theories to sensationalize political issues and events. The loss of trust soon erodes into a loss of hope and lack of united effort toward a better nation.
To the credit of the film, “Shadow Conspiracy” revolves around an advisor to the President Bobby Bishop (Charlie Sheen) whose flight from the conspirators also becomes a journey into a deeper awareness of the true purpose of public service.
In the beginning Bobby Bishop is obviously patterned after recent White House aides whose good looks and ability to “play the game” have afforded them success in the Washington political network. But to be effective, Bishop has had to abandon his ideals. Rather than fulfilling the campaign promises he helped his President write, he has become only a shadow servant, conspiring for political advantage.
As a result of the struggle to stay alive, Bishop also gets in touch once more with his deeper motivation to be involved in government. Rather than take the power position of White House Chief of Staff after the conspiracy is defeated, he decides to head the President’s new program for developing jobs.
Most often this is the motivation for those in public service: to serve. The cynical presentation in many films does a great disservice both to our elected officials and to the people who elected them. If we are to move forward into a new day of progress we need films which explore with us the true issues and possible solutions in our joint journey.