Did this Movie Predict the Future? || Conspiracy In Film

It is the last two days of 1999 Los Angeles is constantly on the brink of either a street party or a full-blown riot

Lenny Nero is a small time crook who deals in black market recordings of real memories One night, he encounters a sadistic, horrifying ‘snuff’ memory, and is thrust into the heart of a dangerous conspiracy What other incriminating memories are out there, and who is behind the trauma? An illegal technology called SQUID allows visceral recordings of a person’s memories to be saved and experienced by others as if they were there This means Lenny’s recordings are not just memories – they are evidence When the police murder inflammatory rapper Jeriko One for his activism against the LAPD, a prostitute called Iris witnessed the execution while wearing a SQUID

She was secretly hired by Jeriko’s manager, music industry mogul Philo Grant, to spy on Jeriko One To stop anyone finding out he spied his own clients, Grant decides to bury the evidence He burns his copy of the tape and orders a hit on Iris She passes another copy of the memory to Lenny, shortly before being brutally raped and murdered The hired assassin uses a SQUID to make his victims experience their suffering from his perspective

Unbeknownst to Lenny, the hitman is his own best friend, former cop Max Peltier When Max’s lover Faith learns of Iris’ tape, Philo orders Max to kill her Instead, Max decides to kill Philo and frame Lenny for every murder Luckily, Lenny learns the truth and proves his innocence Director Kathryn Bigelow’s sci-fi flop is a clear product of the 90s, but is still eerily relevant to the 21st century

Today, everyone has a camera in their pocket to record any moment We may not have SQUID memory recorders, but the film’s POV scenes mimic how smartphones and action cams capture daily life, and police brutality The camera technology did not even exist at the time, so Lightstorm Entertainment researched for a year before they came up with a 35mm Steadicam-style rig that weighed 36 kilograms – very light for the time Interestingly, writer James Cameron presents his fictional SQUID technology as a law enforcement tool before it becomes a public toy via the black market

In the film, SQUID is criminalised like class A drugs, which is not the case for real-world home videos However, filming police officers is a different matter It was only in 2017 that the case of Fields v the City of Philadelphia decided that the right to film police officers in public was protected under the First Amendment Before then, police officers were confused as to whether it was illegal or not

Judge Thomas Ambro said, “I cannot say that the state of the law [in 2012 and 2013] gave fair warning to… officers that recording public police activity was constitutionally protected” In Rialto, California, use of force went down 95% and complaints from citizens decreased by 90% the year after police body cams were introduced This implies officers work more responsibly when they know they are on camera The only reason to ban civilians recording police activity in a public space would be to cover up the bad practice of the police themselves Much of Strange Days was influenced by the 1992 LA Riots

These began after Rodney King, a black American taxi driver, was arrested for speeding, then subjected to police brutality by the LAPD A civilian witness filmed the crime: nevertheless, the four officers involved were acquitted The California State Army was called in to establish order The riots ended with 58 dead, over 2,000 injured, over $1 billion in damages, and more than 12,000 arrests The film pessimistically portrays 1999 Los Angeles in an even greater state of decay

It’s not clear whether or not the LA Riots happened in the film’s universe, but the cause of Strange Days’ broken world seems to be a similar issue with brutal authority and the oppression of minorities The unjust treatment of Rodney King was less extreme than Jeriko One’s execution Unfortunately, there have been many real instances more similar to the film In 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by police officer Darren Wilson Brown was unarmed and not the suspect Wilson was pursuing

In the wake of Brown’s murder, riots ensued across Ferguson, Missouri In response, the Obama administration expanded the use of mandatory body cameras by police officers As a piece of hardware, SQUID is most comparable to bodycams But the recreational escapism it provides works like virtual reality, albeit with addictive side effects The aggressive crackdown on Lenny’s wares is an amalgamation of the technophobia that permeated the 90s and America’s War on Drugs in the 80s and 90s

Police brutality in Strange Days is limited to the beat cop, it does not extend to their superiors, who could assist in witness tampering, intimidation, and other forms of obstructing justice That is not the case in real life: in 2017, Long Island’s Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and his anti-corruption bureau chief, Christopher McPartland, were both indicted for their role in covering up a 2011 incident in which Officer James Burke beat a handcuffed prisoner Spota was sentenced to four years in jail, and Burke was sentenced to 46 months The character Philo Grant is based on sleazy record producers like Phil Spector, who, besides his wild success with artists like John Lennon, The Righteous Brothers and The Ronettes, was also known for his abusive tendencies The Ronettes’ lead singer, Ronnie Spector, described how in her marriage to Phil, he often locked her in his California mansion, and yelled at her until she was too scared to speak

In 2008 Phil Spector was convicted of the murder of Lana Clarkson, whom he shot in the mouth in 2003 He will probably die in prison Strange Days was not the hit it deserved to be, but it continues to be relevant It not only predicts how technology would evolve, but envisions how corrupt people in positions of power, whether the police or music producers, may try to exploit it

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