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dog days

dog days

Friday, January 27, 2017

The 27th Day




The 27th Day
1957
William Asher

Individuals from, the US, UK, China, Russia, and Germany are plucked out of their lives by aliens and given a box containing three capsules that only that person can open. Inside each box are three capsules that can destroy a 3,000 mile diameter area. All the individuals need to do is think about opening the box and it will open. Then anyone can think of coordinates and deliver the payload. If humanity can keep from killing itself for 27 days the aliens will leave, if not, the aliens will have a cleared off planet to colonize.

With The 27th Day being a 1950s era science-fiction film that touches on world politics, you can expect some jingoism. While the U.S. and U.S.S.R. are indeed positioned as complete moral opposites, I did find it interesting that it was the individuals who were given the boxes would take actions that were morally responsible regardless of their nationality. Single people didn’t want to risk the utter destruction of humanity, but governments were either interested or at least forced into playing a game of chicken with these weapons. The allusions to the cold war are obvious here, but there is just the tiniest room for some nuance in the story.

"Cower puny humans! Cower before my collection of erotic vibrating eggs!"
The best part of The 27th Day, is that the set-up for this scenario immediately leads the viewer to consider what they would do in the situation. It’s a thought provoking set-up and having the aliens turn up the heat by letting the world know what is happening is a magnificent way to ratchet up the tension. The movie settles in to an escalating series of events that can only lead the world closer and closer to destruction. Sadly, the story can’t maintain this initial level of suspense, but it does manage to keep the question of how this is all going to resolve up in the air throughout its brief run time.

There are couple legitimately chilling moments to be found here, a suicide that immediately takes one of the selected players out of the game, and a scene where the US military blows up a volunteer with a terminal illness just to make sure the capsules work as advertised. Moments like these give some gravitas to the story.
Meanwhile at Wal-Mart HQ...
[At this point, I’m going to discuss the end to The 27th Day, so if you wish to see it unspoiled this is your warning. It’s not a long film and it has an interesting enough premise, I would definitely give it a look.]

In reality, The 27th Day can only end one of two ways, the weapons gets used or the weapons don’t get used. The movie tries to hedge its bet, by throwing in a Deus Ex Machina in the form of a secret mathematical code on the capsules, one that, when solved, allows the user to specially target, “Every known enemy of human freedom.” On top of adding a silly moral dimension to the proceedings, it is  worth noting (but not surprising) that all the enemies of freedom appear to from countries other than America. There’s something deeply unsatisfying about the film’s message which veers from “Try not to kill everything with your super-weapons” to “Just make sure to kill the right sort of people with your super-weapons.”

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