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I Think I'm Paranoid

by Andrew Green

I'm fascinated by paranoia.

Not to make fun of the subject TOO much, though -- in all honesty, I think it's important not to trust everything that's presented to you. What's the old slogan? "Paranoia: You Only Have To Be Right Once For It All To Be Worthwhile"??? I believe I saw that on a t-shirt...or maybe it was a coffee mug or something. Either way, wise words indeed.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that I find the subject of paranoia to be interesting on several levels. And it's related to the more broad issue of mental illness, which I also find interesting. Total insanity is especially fascinating, and offers limitless possibilities. How does one know when he or she is really just nuts? Movies that tread into this arena are often engaging (as in, say, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest), and I especially like them when the viewer isn't told until close to the end whether or not the main character's struggles really are all the result of madness, like A Beautiful Mind. Scariest movie I ever saw, man.

So, here's a capsule review for a little film called Civic Duty, which explores such issues against the backdrop of Post-911 mass hysteria (or, WAS IT?). I think it was originally made for some cable network, but I found it to be of high quality, anyway.

Civic Duty (2006)

Netflix description:
"Recently fired from his job, accountant Terry Allen spends his days glued to the television, transfixed by 24-hour news coverage that obsesses over the threat of terrorism. When a quiet Islamic student moves in next door, Terry assumes the worst and takes it upon himself to quell the perceived threat. This suspenseful thriller examines the American psyche in a post-Sept. 11 world."

A surprisingly good film that manages to maintain a suspenseful edge and keep us guessing right up until the end. In the tense atmosphere of 9/11's immediate aftermath, an unemployed accountant grows increasingly suspicious of his Middle Eastern neighbor.

Excellent acting (I especially liked Richard Schiff as the jaded FBI agent), and skilled direction make what could easily have been a ho-hum experience worth watching. It's a simple, yet well-made, little movie. The ending, which is open to several interpretations, is great, too. I say give it a look.

3 out of 5.