‘No Sudden Move’ is a surprisingly anti-pollution Hollywood thriller
No sudden movement, Steven Soderbergh’s new crime thriller, has received great reviews from critics. But the film also ended up teaching me, an environmental journalist, an important part of the history of pollution about which I knew nothing. To, I’m sure, many movie executives who read this blog, listen: I want more movies like this, where we can see inside the infamous blueprints of the automakers.
I’m not a Big Movie Guy, so you gotta go elsewhere for a great cinematographic analysis of the film, but i had a great time watching No sudden movement. (FYI, mid-level spoilers for the film follow.) Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro play criminals living in Detroit in 1954. They are hired by a criminal intermediary, played by Brendan Fraser (!!), to make a work for a large crowd boss, a character played by Ray Liotta. They join another little crook, played by Kieran Culkin (Roman de Succession), to blackmail a General Motors employee played by David Harbor (Hopper from Strange things) by holding his family hostage until he does what they want: steal a mysterious document from his boss’s safe at GM. The plot goes on from there: there are double crossovers, guns, Jon Hamm as the cop, lots of driving in insanely sleek old cars, and Matt Damon in a late act, an uncredited role in as a villain working for the auto industry.
A thing No sudden movement does not provide too much exposure. There are a lot of stories and character tales that Soderbergh seems to trust audiences to pick up on for himself. This applies to both the outline of the plot – we never really know why everyone is so freaked out about the document in the vault, and it doesn’t really matter to the storyline. main – as well as the film’s rich historical background. In one scene, the character of Don Cheadle speaks with an old friend, who mentions a neighborhood that has been destroyed. It took a bit of Google fury during a break on my end to figure out that the character is referring to the destruction of black bottom, a historically black neighborhood that was demolished in an infamous act of racist âurban renewalâ.
My ears woke up briefly in the fourth act when Matt Damon’s character said there was “no conclusive evidence” that there was a link between cars and pollution. I thought that was another line to add some historical color to the film, given that the era depicted in the film predates many environmental laws. But as the end credits roll by, a title card tells viewers that years after the film’s fictional storyline ended, the Justice Department has sued major automakers for colluding to prevent the technology. pollution control of their cars.
The mysterious document in the safe that everyone was fighting for, we had seen earlier, was a blueprint for a pollution control device. Turns out all the action I just watched was the result of automakers scrambling to not let their research become public, which could have forced them to clean up their act, almost certainly saving lives in the process. It was a fictional story, of course, but based on historical facts.
I’m reporting on climate, pollution, and corporate deviousness for my job, so it really blew me away that I didn’t learn more about this crucial piece of pollution history. I decided to dig a bit (by reviewing the film).
In 1969, the MJ for follow-up GM, Ford, Chrysler, American Motors Corp. and the Automobile Manufacturers Association of America – the trade group of automobile manufacturers – alleging that as early as 1953, these companies had agreed not to compete with each other in the development of pollution control devices for their cars. The lawsuit also claimed that automakers had agreed not to sell any cars with pollution abatement technology before certain dates set by the group. This deal, according to the lawsuit, meant that pollution controls in some models could have been installed years before they started being installed on cars in the mid-1960s. It could have saved untold lives and reduced emissions. public health effects of air pollution in cities, in particular the heavy burden on communities of color.
Understand why automakers would agree to do not making the air purifier needs a bit of context. From the early 1940s, smog became a persistent public health problem in urban areas. Los Angeles and other cities have seen an increasing number of days where smog has caused low visibility and stung people’s eyes. (There are some wild photos from that time of people biking or walking the streets with full gas masks.) Research started in California in the late 1940s started to bind definitively smog from car engine exhaust.
In the face of this growing body of evidence, automakers doubled down on the denial and claimed that the science was wrong and car exhaust fumes were not. this wrong. A Ford executive wrote to a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Directors in 1953, claiming that car exhausts “did not present a problem with air pollution,” a line that almost mirrors that of Damon in No sudden movement.
Yet, automakers had to do Something to save their public image and the scope of regulations. Between 1953 and 1954, the major automobile companies agreed to form a committee to study the issue and develop pollution control technology; executives pledged after a visit to Los Angeles that each company would spend $ 1 million a year on research. But the DOJ lawsuit alleged the deal served as a cover for companies to actually work together to block research into air pollution control. According to documents obtained by a grand jury in connection with the lawsuit, a director of DuPont Chemical wrote in a memo in 1959 that the major automakers weren’t “interested in manufacturing or selling devices … but worked only to protect themselves against bad public relations and the timing of gas control devices. ‘exhaust may be required by law “.
The trial of the Ministry of Justice ended up collapsing in a pretty messy way. He was deposed just as the Nixon administration took power. The auto industry had a very good lawyer who managed to negotiate a settlement that also practically sealed the evidence uncovered by the grand jury and prevented the public of the day from hearing what was really going on. A few lawsuits by states trying to hold automakers accountable have been dismissed by the courts. In the early 1970s, car manufacturers turned to lobbying against the Clean Air Act, who demanded that they put pollution control technology in cars; ultimately, the antitrust lawsuit was largely forgotten in public memory.
Watching No sudden movement once again, it really blew me away that there wasn’t After movies that position automakers as bad guys – or at least show their shenanigans for what they really are. There is a seemingly endless supply of historic fodder for corporate malfeasance. Automakers have continued to fight tooth and nail against the government for decades over pollution controls, with many backings scandals and schematics along the way (Dieselgate, anyone?). As No sudden movement shows, automakers can make phenomenal movie villains or infamous, behind-the-scenes corporate puppeteers.
They’re tailor-made for the role, with obscure executives ready to put profit above the public good, lies, large sums of money at stake, and more. They are essentially the Joker of business. But texting a friend who writes about cars for a living, the only movie we were able to come up with that showed all the capabilities of automakers for corporate fuck was a documentary by Michael Moore on how GM stifled the electric car. Meanwhile, Vin Diesel continues to blast Dodge Chargers once every two years on the big screen like clockwork. (The Fast Furious the franchise is guilty pleasure for me, but there’s no denying that it’s its own form of pro-car propaganda.)
As No sudden movement shows, you don’t have to hammer audiences over the head with morality or outrage to explain to people how companies have ruined the environment and public health, or choose between making a thriller or an educational film. You can have fun in a funny crime while highlighting an important piece of pollution history. And if Brendan Fraser is in it, it’s even better.