Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Continued & unsettling 9/11 stuff: Eric Stacey's UNTHINKABLE: AN AIRLINE CAPTAIN'S STORY

To find the official version about Marshall Philips, a former airline pilot and 9/11 conspriacy theorist said to have murdered his two children and family dog before comitting suicide, if you Google the name, you'll need to go to Britain's Daily Mail, even though the event in question seems to have occurred in the Santa Barbara area of California. It's the unofficial version that writer/directed Eric Stacey is after in the new narrative-done-in-mostly-documentary-style movie, UNTHINKABLE: AN AIRLINE CAPTAN'S STORY.

No spring chicken, Mr. Stacey (shown at left) has directed half a dozen films over the past decade and written, produced and acted as cinematographer on five of these. He's clearly a hands-on filmmaker whose understanding of and work on both documen-taries and narrative films is put to use on Unthinkable -- but not, I have to say, to very good use. The movie is, first and last, a 9/11-themed conspiracy film, and it seems to me that when one is dealing with this sort of thing, one must go out of his way to dot one's i's and cross one's t's. Not only does this not get done, but there are times as you're watching this movie that you'll feel that the alphabet itself has been left out.

Evidently, from what we can gather from the film, ex-pilot Philips (played by Randall Paul, above) was concerned with the question of where the terrorist pilots of the 9/11 planes got the kind of flight training that would enable them to have done what they did (no easy feat), and further, how this connects to Saudi Arabian intelligence, our own government and the Bush administration.

According to the film, Philips was on the brink of getting (or maybe had just recevied) a photo and/or information that would prove his case. He's frightened for what this might mean to the security of himself and his children (that's Shannon Churchwell as his son, above).

Federal agents (above) pay a call, and later that day (or was it the next?) dad, kids and dog are dead, and the event is immediately declared a murder/suicide. Now, if even a couple of the things shown us in this film are true -- take your choice: it took 18 hours for the police to show up after calls were made to 911 (several of them), the police report got important details wrong, anything but normal proceedure was followed, the bodies were immediately cremated without permission, and on and on -- the whole thing reeks of lies and "cover-up."

Immediately after, dad's reputation is tarred and feathered with every-thing from his being paranoid and abusing drugs to being depressed because of family problems, none of which appears to have been true. The policeman involved (Drew Barrios, above) is so nasty you expect him to start twirling his mustache (except he's bald and clean shaven), while his deputy gives the dead son's schoolmates (below) a demonstration of pro-paganda that George Orwell would have understood but not appreciated.

It seems to me that all this would be fairly easy to document and build a case around. In the movie that case is made by Dad's best friend, a journalist named Madison Feeman (Dennis Fitzpatrick, below) who acts as our guide and hero, once Dad is no more. Also on board is the son of the family's best friend, Mike (played weakly by Shade Streeter) whose scene of biking away from the bad guys is the film's single attempt at action/suspense.

I wonder why all those involved did not simply choose to make a documentary about this case? Facts could have been marshaled and evidence built in a more convincing manner than is done here -- with mediocre writing and acting that moves from the acceptable range into the not so. Whatever the truth behind Philips' claims about the training of those pilots, the death of this man and his children deserve better investigation and memorial.

Unthinkable: An Airline Captain's Story -- from Movies on a Mission and running 85 minutes -- opens this Friday, April 11, in New York City at the Quad Cinema.

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