Nightbreaker: Advance to Ground Zero
By Mike Derderian
It is the silence preceding the storm that worries me more than the state of darkness we humans are stagnating in nowadays. Darkness, everywhere I go, even as I stand leaning on the bus stop wall that holds a cheap shot ad to a newly established newspaper. It seems Aton has forsaken me. I no longer enjoy his warmth and yellow beams caressing my dark chuffed skin: a reason probably also attributed to the fact that I never use Nivea.
How does it feel to sit comfortably at home watching innocent children slaughtered everyday? Mutilated angelic carcasses pulled away from the prying cameras of moneymaking news agencies, after being wrapped up in decaying rough maternal-free blankets.
Do you find it easy to swallow that Orio biscuit? Split, lick and dip, which is another rotten franchise from the west taking over the minds of our Arab children creating the softer generations of milk dud macho men.
Sanctions administrated here and there, toppling dictators, liberating us sheep using wolves for a messiah and its all thanks to “Good ol” Uncle Sam, who is just like our hard working policemen, ticketing those not wearing safety belts and letting those driving hundred mph pass you by in a trail of thunder and dust. Da Datta: what have we given and where are we heading?
Advancing towards ground zero is where we are heading, my dear reader. Right into a future where we all shall celebrate the arrival of a nuclear winter, when radiating snowflakes will penetrate our Taiwanese umbrellas. Covering our heads with ashes of remorse and filling the insides of our membranes with cancerous cells that will in turn morph us into dust and ashes to ashes laiden inside a tomb with a headstone saying:
Here lies, a cruel creature cast out of Eden,
Still stupid, arrogant despite of being beaten,
Not knowing his limitations the poor heathen,
Blew up himself; leaving all to a smarter simian.
The above prelude the longest that I wrote for Cinerama from a long time sums up the mixed feelings one experiences after watching the 1989 “Nightbreaker” aka “Advancing to Ground Zero.” The latter title of course is more suitable, due to its ominous resonance especially that it tackles the biggest and life threatening issue of the century: Nuclear armament.
Directed by Peter Markle and starring Lea Thompson, Melinda Dillon, Joe Pantoliano and “father and son” actors Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, whom both played the role of the main character Dr Alexander Brown, this film is about the long term biological effects of nuclear experimentation.
The film’s opening sequence places the viewer within a nightmarish string of events. Starting with the image of a blazing sun blanketing an eerie sandy horizon where an exhausted human pant is heard in the background, as a soldier tiresomely runs for cover behind a large stone before a strong surge of a dust engulfs everything.
The cinematography and art direction used in the opener dream sequence of Dr Brown (Sheen) brilliantly deployed the reoccurring dream thesis, where images are sharp while sounds are muffled and at times distorted, setting the viewers moods towards a sense of anxiety and intentional discomfort on part of the director.
Using the retrospect technique of narrative Brown’s memory takes us back to the 1950’s of this century and mainly to Nevada, where he was assigned as a psychiatrist to a military unit headed by a Sergeant called Russell (Pantoliano), whose soldiers were later in the film were used as guinea pigs for nuclear experimentations without their knowledge.
Emilio Estevez, who bears an uncanny resemblance to his father Sheen, played the role of the younger Brown, who deep down inside knew what happened to him and to the regiment, however, it was as always to late and good guys always lose. Don’t panic, I didn’t give away the story I am simply teasing you.
Some of the film scenes were taken from authenticated documentary footage; displaying a number of nuclear experimentations on houses fitted with dummies, military unites and pigs that were left to suffer the burning heat wave produced from the nuclear explosion, as seen on television. Talk about extremes: micro waved-radio active ham, all of our products are carcinogenic and are available at your local supermarkets.
Among all the turmoil of finding out that you’ve got contaminated with nuclear dust, you girlfriend (a charming Lea Thompson as Sally Matthews) dumped you and this is where Hollywood’s violins started playing the usual notes of love is in the air, however, this time it got contaminated.
Both Sheen’s gave a profound performance especially in the manner they depicted the doctor’s inner torment, which stopped him from doing what was right in exposing the truth of what happened in the Nevada desert.
Will he do it? A question only answered after watching this bleak prophetic vision of an uncertain future arriving to our times of hardship, where a world supposedly ours in the end will reveal a bitter reality of men and apes.