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The Trigger Effect  

Starring: Elizabeth Shue, Kyle MacLachlan, Dermot Mulroney Directed by: David Koepp Written by: David Koepp

I've always found the phrase "sanctity of life" to be incredibly bogus. What bothers me is not necessarily the phrase itself, but rather the hypocrisy surrounding those who try and use it to defend stances such as pro-life. Sanctity is defined as "the state of being made Holy, freed from sin". It seems to me that if you're going to argue that all human life is free of sin, then you had damn well better be sin-free yourself, because if you're not, you have absolutely no right to talk about the "sanctity of life". If it's true that Christians believe in Heaven, then they believe in Hell. If they believe in God, then they believe in Satan. And if they believe in Satan, then they believe in temptation. And if they believe in temptation, then it's fair to say that they believe in sin. And if they believe in sin, then there is no such thing as the "sanctity of life"! Now, I believe that life is very precious, but one thing life is NOT is sanctified. Sin is everywhere. We know it. We're aware of it. Yet when it comes to acknowledging it, we turn into a swarm of hypocrites. We pride ourselves on being "high class" and "civilized", but just how civilized are we?

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Buy a The Trigger Effect poster !

I use the above example not as a platform to bash the pro-life movement, although it certainly may seem that way. Rather, as an example to question the perceived level of our civility. That's the question that is posed in the new film "The Trigger Effect". As the film opens, we see a group of wolves chewing away at a dead animal carcass. To us, that is very primitive. We consider ourselves "above" behavior like that. We are intelligent. We are technologically advanced. We are civilized, right? Okay, so where does this civility come from? Why don't we hunt each other down like a pack of wolves? Is it because there is a kind of "divine spark" inside the human soul? Is it because there is an inherent sense of right and wrong buried deep within our existence? Or is the answer OUTSIDE the human existence? Is it simply because our behavioral responses and actions are governed by a set of rules and regulations? Do we not kill because we know it is morally wrong, or do we not kill because it is ILLEGAL? What if we weren't as technologically advanced? Or worse, what if there was a complete electrical blackout that lasted for days? How would we respond to such a situation?

"The Trigger Effect" tells such a story. It's set in a small suburban neighborhood somewhere in California. A young couple (Kyle MacLachlan and Elisabeth Shue) have just returned from the movies. Just as they get into bed, the power goes out. They assume it'll come back on in a few minutes. It doesn't. The next day, the power is still out. This power failure not only includes the electricity, but also the phone lines and the car radios. No one knows what's causing it, or how long it'll be.

The film does a decent job of showing the confusion that would arise from a situation like this, as well as the rising tensions of the people in town. Everyone's boiling point is escalating rapidly to almost nightmarish proportions. Pretty soon it gets to the point where if you just look at someone in the wrong way, you could get blown away. There are some very frightening confrontations throughout the course of the movie.

Where the film falls apart is at the conclusion. The premise is truly magnificent and capable of so much powerful insight into human nature, yet the movie feels unsure of itself. Writer/Director David Koepp plays it a bit too safe. Koepp has been a hot screenwriter in Hollywood for a while now; penning such scripts as "Jurassic Park" and "The Paper". With "The Trigger Effect", he has come up with a fabulous idea, but doesn't follow it through to the end. This is a film that practically screams to be daring, but is handled in a rather timid fashion.

The best scene in the movie doesn't take place after the blackout, but rather before, at the movie theatre. It's an uncut camera shot that follows various people through the movie theatre lobby and into the auditorium. We get a good idea of how people react to one another - of how when one person becomes agitated, they turn around and agitate someone else, knowing full well what they are doing. Each person that the camera follows does or says something incredibly rude to another person, then nonchalantly justifies their action, regardless of how insensitive it was. It's a great setup that is deserving of a better payoff than it received.

As I left the theatre, I was overcome with a feeling of disappointment because the movie didn't show what really might have played out. Yet the film's setup really had an impact on me. America is at it's own boiling point and it feels like it's going to blow any second. We're letting our dignity slip right through our fingers and we don't seem to care anymore. It's sad. I get the strange feeling that it's going to be all over soon - for everyone. I really wish something like that would play out only in the movies.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney Critically Ill

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