Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Goodbye World": The power grid goes down to a cyberattack launched by cell phone spam, and some of the principals gather in a California communal home

Goodbye World”, directed by Dennis Hennelly, is less credible a Luddite threat than it is a post-apocalyptic soap opera that pits collectivism against and Ayn Rand style survivalism, which is no longer really individualistic. The title also invokes the title of every first program in every java programming class, “Hello world”. 
The film, set in the California coast mountains around the Bay Area, puts together an unlikely group of young adults to try to live together after the apocalypse.

The actual deed bears mention.  A cell phone malware virus sends a text “Goodbye World” as spam to every cell phone in the world, repeatedly.  The malware contains a payload that, when activated, causes the entire US power grid to self-destruct over a few hours.  Now, I don’t think this is technically possible, so the film doesn’t have the “warning value” that it might. 

James (a handsome Adrian Granier) owns the compound and has prepared himself well to live off the grid, as he quotes Thoreau at the beginning of the film, with his wife Lily (Kerry Bishe).  Benji (Mark Webber) lives in a hut on the property, having spent time in jail and then taught at a left wing school before moving to the woods.  Laura (Gaby Hoffmann) had been denied a job at a non-profit because of a soap-opera-like scandal (resembling “Days of our Lives” right now).   Nick (Ben McKenzie, from “The O.C.”) and his wife Becky (Caroline Dhavernas) also arrive.  Nick and James seem to have some business connection to the property, with some conflict. Finally, Lev (Scott Mescudi) also has hitchhiked there, after not taking his own life when the virus attack hits.

The power goes out gradually, as does the Internet. Then, there are too many coincidences to belive.  Lev had been hired to write the virus code to spam “Goodye World”.  He didn’t know about the power grid malware, but came to suspect it later.  After the power grid failed, he began to feel smug that he had been involved.  And Lily, just to prove she could do it, had apparently hacked into the server that contained that secondary malware. 

Some soldiers arrive, and James, while Lily quotes the obscure Third Amendment about quartering of soldiers, refuses to let the stay.  So the soldiers stay below in what seems to be a loosely organized intentional community.  James has stored medicines and food seed, and the soldiers eventually try to demand, in communist fashion, that they share it.  I’m not sure I buy the film’s denouement.
There is an odd and prescient reference to Ebola virus, and some other inevitable epigrams, like “No justice, just us.”  A caricature of President Obama appears on a rabbi-ear battery-powered TV, looping in speech, saying “We are a serious people”, which turns out to be a code to tell authorities to install martial law. 

The official Facebook site for the film is here. The film is distributed by Phase 4 (which likes apocalyptic sci-fi)) and Samuel Goldwyn (which likes social messages).
The film can be rented on YouTube for $9.99.  I watched it with my Netflix subscription. 
The setting of the film reminds me that a power substation near San Jose, CA was mysteriously attacked by gunfire in April 2013 but very little power disruption resulted.  The case is still unsolved.  

The film will obviously be compared to NBC's "Revolution" series.  Note that the power goes out but individual electronics still work for people who have generators or solar power.  
Picture: Mono Lake, CA, my trip, 2012  

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