Impressions of <i>The Deal</i>

At Prof. Goose's urging, we went to go see The Deal tonight. As Prof Goose noted, this is an independent movie that tries to address some of the issues surrounding our country's dependence on oil. As advertised, there's a love story plot, as well as some boardroom drama and violence to keep people interested.

Here's a summary of the movie in a nutshell. At the start, we learn that the US is at war with the "Confederation of Arab States"--which I guess is supposed to be like OPEC, but apparently can also wage war. Gas prices are at $6/gallon because the US can no longer import gas from the region. Christian Slater plays an investment banker who's approached by an American oil company who needs his help to close a deal with a Russian oil company that has some wells in Kazakhstan. We soon learn that something about the deal is not quite right, and Slater's character faces a dilemma that puts his company--and his life--at risk.

(Note: The remainder of the post contains mild spoilers.)

The movie is an attempt to bring some of the issues surrounding the oil industry and our dependence on oil into focus. Primarily, how far will we go to keep gas prices low in this country, rather than looking for alternative solutions? If the deal goes through, not only does Slater's company get rich, but the government gets the oil it needs to placate the populace. More to the point, the website for The Deal puts it this way:
Senator Lucas in the film [played by Rep. Jay Inslee!] indicates that the government must continue to buy the oil, even though it means dealing with our enemies. How does this parallel our relationship with Saudi Arabia, post 9/11? Do you agree with the White House and its policies in regard to Saudi Arabia, given the apparent links to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda?
The movie takes a further stab at the shortsightedness of the government by giving us Abbey, a sympathetic character whose passion is creating an alternative energy tax credit plan that will help small companies and encourage the development of other energy sources. Of course, the government decides to nix her idea, and we're led to think, "How typical--here the country is in chaos, and the government is still looking out for the oil companies."

Throughout the movie, there are little hints that the country is in a state of upheaval--a quick scene of a fight breaking out in a line at a gas station, a headline that says "US president's popularity plunges over oil crisis"--but there is actually very little depiction of the chaos that the oil shortage is causing. This may be for the purely practical reason that the movie was on a shoestring budget, but it causes a disconnect. The main characters are rich Wall Streeters, who still drive cars, fly in planes to meet their clients, and work in their 50-story New York office buildings. In one visual gag, a Hummer is driven to a senior partners' meeting. On one hand, it's heartening--even when gas is at $6/barrel, we'll still be able to fly from New York to Boston on business. (Why not have the characters take Amtrak?) But on the other hand, a viewer might see this as the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Surely life wasn't going on as usual for the rest of the country, but we never saw their lives depicted. I think the movie would have been much more powerful if there'd be more visual representation of how the other half was affected by the shortages.

Still, while I may personally be eager to see how Hollywood might conceive of life during oil shortages, how corporate America and the government might deal with these issues is an important topic. One thing I should point out is that the further release of this movie depends on how it does in the places it's playing this weekend. I think the movie is important enough that more people should be given an opportunity to see it, so if you're in any of these cities, please go see it so that others can also go.

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Anybody know if this is coming to Seattle?

It's a crying shame, and a HUGE marketing misteak, that they don't trial-run this movie here in Houston. This is the home of BIG OIL, and also one of the largest cities in America. Of course, we are one of those "red" states, which means that everybody living here must be a supporter of MKG (mad king george).

I'm guessing that the budget may have disallowed further glimpses into the chaos external to the main plot, or else they wanted to stick to what they had a handle on or even that they didn't want to get apocalyptic at all.

Anyway, I would love to hear all of the plot in a day or two. By then, those few that can see it will have done so, and the rest of us can at least get an idea of the movie.

If you want "The Deal" to come to Houston, and ask! From

No oil from the middle east and gas is only $6 a gallon.

In Europe gas is $6 a gallon (ok $5,50)

I'd go see it if it was playing around here in Canada.

I saw the movie this evening in DC. It was very entertaining. My wife still rolls her eyes at me whenever I start to talk "energy crisis," but she enjoyed it for its entertainment value.

The one shortfall that will not make the peak oilers happy is that it does not recognize the issue of depletion, but rather focuses upon the dangers of a supply disruption (much like "Oil Storm," though this movie is much better quality). At one point, the main character (Slater) screams "there is plenty of oil here in the U.S.," to which an oil company CEO screams back (roughly) "yeah, but we'll never get it out with all of the environmentalists." At another point, a character says (roughly) that "you can practically drill a well anywhere in the Middle East and hit oil."

Overall, its a good movie that raises awareness about our dependence on foreign oil, but it does not recognize the problems associated with peaking.

As I thought, an exercise.

I saw the movie last night in NYC with my girlfriend who agreed to go once I told her Christian Slater was in it.

As JLA has already pointed out, it focuses on the issue as a political/distribution one, not a true peakoil depletion issue. Although I would say that in the context of creating an understanding of how dependent we are on foreign oil it achieved the goal.

In my mind this looked like how ACT I of the peak oil drama that would end - a secret realization from our political leaders that we need to secure drilling / supply rights by force and deceit if necessary. I think we are already at the beginning of this ACT with the Iraq War which the reason for being there will go from WMD/eliminating Saddam to spreading democracy to controling precious oil resources. I think the public would actually support the war if oil is $4-6 a gallon.

My girlfriend asked me afterwards why it was just cars and other transportation affect instead of electric production - she thought there should have been more black-outs. I explained that most oil is converted to either car/plane/boat fuel, home heating oil or used in agricultural fertilizer or industrial processes, but very little for electricity production. She never knew that and she's really well educated.

There is a big learning curve out there and this movie at least helped identify a few issues -

1. The government will lie as long as it can to preserve the status quo

2. Force will probably be necessary to control / secure resources in the future.

3. As a result wars will become endemic

4. The rich will still live much better than everyone else - for a while