Security cameras and the power of video surveillance (and its potential for misuse) has long been a popular theme in literature, TV and cinema. From George Orwell’s dystopian vision of the future in 1984 with the all-seeing big brother through to the use of cameras to track individuals and even prevent crime in future worlds in films such as Minority Report. Below we look at some of the films that use and consider the role of surveillance in society.
The Dark Knight
To hunt down his arch foe, the Joker, Bruce Wayne utilises his financial resources to establish an all-encompassing monitoring system. Bruce pursues justice as Batman, but by breaching the privacy of Gotham’s people, he disturbs long-time friend Lucius Fox, and the system’s morality is put into doubt.
Despite internal MI6 strife, 007 is tasked with shutting down the imminent worldwide monitoring system, “Nine Eyes.” Spectre, like previous Bond films, has surveillance at its core, but “Nine Eyes” takes on the question of global security and what it means when criminal elements take advantage of it.
The Winter Soldier, Captain America.
With a refreshing seriousness not typically seen in Marvel action films, Captain America: The Winter Soldier delves deeply into themes of global monitoring. The film explores the consequences of a surveillance state, in which security monitoring is expanded well beyond its proper scope, and serves as a warning about the potential power of unrestrained surveillance on a larger scale.
The Simpsons: The Motion Picture
The Simpson family is on the run as outlaws from Springfield, but they are tracked down thanks to the NSA’s enormous monitoring systems. The film was released in 2007, and it was ahead of its time in its comments on current-day surveillance concerns and events, as is usual with The Simpsons.
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Bourne series is steeped in surveillance, and when main agent Jason Bourne meets a journalist who has crossed the CIA, he finds himself on the wrong end of it. The film employs CCTV in a dramatic cat and mouse chase action in which agents attempt to find and apprehend the journalist, who is supported by the seasoned Bourne.
Based on a short tale by Philip K. Dick, Minority Report is set in a society where monitoring is king. It’s used to keep track of people and even market to them. This complicates the life of on-the-run protagonist John Anderton (Tom Cruise), who is attempting to solve a long-standing mystery.
The Truman Show
The Truman Show takes a new approach to monitoring; rather than concentrating on political problems, the film examines surveillance as a kind of entertainment. Truman Burbank is played by Jim Carrey, whose life has been fabricated and videotaped for the goal of making a massively successful television programme, unknown to him.
Enemy of the State
Will Smith finds himself at the centre of a political intrigue centred on new law enforcement monitoring regulations. With proof of a US congressman’s killing, he is pursued by the government, which employs a variety of modern monitoring tactics as he seeks to win his release.
The 2002 film, Panic Room investigates the domestic use of surveillance during a break-in in a New York City residence. A bank of CCTV monitors can be seen in the titular panic room, which is where the film’s mother and daughter characters (Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart) are kept safe. This helps them track down crooks attempting to get access to the panic room.
Eagle Eye, released in 2013, removes surveillance away from people and places it in the hands of ARIIA, a supercomputer (Autonomous Reconnaissance Intelligence Integration Analyst). One scenario shows ARIIA interpreting a discussion by detecting the vibrations of coffee in a nearby cup—a technology that has been studied by MIT researchers and has a real-world foundation.
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