As the events of the day in Ames unfolded - and as I worked to deal with a myriad of transportation, sanitation, evacuation, and problems during a 13+ hour shift at work - I was reminded of the society-gone-astray thriller The Trigger Effect. It's a movie that landed on my radar back in the summer of 1996 (Which is completely my favorite year, but that's a different story for a different time) thanks to the presence of my beloved Elisabeth Shue and a mixed review from Siskel & Ebert that got me interested in the idea of the film.
Written and Directed by David Koepp, The Trigger Effect opens with a wonderful tracking shot that shows how easily anger can be transferred from person to person in a populated setting. A waiter trips over a cord, spills on a man who doesn't speak English, who then bumps into someone else, who then argues with someone else, and so on. It's all simple human frustration; the kind of thing that happens every day. But it's something we rarely stop to witness, and Koepp's camera does a fine job of pointing out the ease with which our frustrations can boil into aggression.
What happens when we let these frustrations gain momentum? What if we always take the easy way out and avoid them? Those are the questions raised as The Trigger Effect moves on to its setting event, a blackout that shutsdown large portions of L.A. and its subrubs and leaves a married couple (Kyle Maclachlan and Shue), their sick daughter, and a family friend (Dermot Mulroney) fighting for their survival against a sea of troubles. The movie references predators that feed on the weak in early scenes where we see coyotes eating dead animals and get a quick glance at George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (another film in which normal people let their frustrations boil over while facing a change in their reality), but shocks us by making the human condition the host of predatory behavior.
And that's what made me think of The Trigger Effect today. As the river banks rose and conveniences that we take for granted disappeared, rumors spread throughout the town. People took to the streets in search of safe water, and I'm sure more than a few people cursed their neighbor in frustration. While I have faith in my town to not reach the extremes of The Trigger Effect - which definitely has its characters act in a highly metaphorical and illogical manner - I think the message the film sends rings true for Ames today.
In extreme conditions, we have to remember that most everyone is having a bad day. We seem to lose sight of that too often. We point fingers at others and believe that everyone's out to get us, but deep down inside we're all just fighting to survive and trying to feel like we still have some control over our lives when the things we thought were certain suddenly become variable.
The Trigger Effect never quite understands these facts entirely, the same way most people - including myself - don't understand them entirely. But I like where its heart is.
Also, I love Elisabeth Shue SOOOOOOOO MUCH.