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The 11th Green: Head-scratching low-key paranoid thriller


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
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  • Jul. 02, 2020 - 12:54 PM

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The 11th Green: Head-scratching low-key paranoid thriller


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Review By: Jonathan W. Hickman

“The 11th Green” is a subtly subversive take on alternative history. The film will resonate with conspiracy theorists who believe that the government is hiding the truth about extraterrestrials.

In crafting his odd narrative, writer/director Christopher Munch approaches the material like a television docudrama featured on History (formerly The History Channel). He uses an investigative journalist named Jeremy Rudd (Campbell Scott) as a way into the twisty world of government coverup.

Some of the film’s characters, like President Dwight Eisenhower, are taken from real life, but other details like those concerning alien technology are speculation. The skill involved in crafting this low budget affair should cause some viewers to ask questions and do a little research into the UFO phenomenon. “The 11th Green” isn’t nearly as exciting as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” but both films share provocative common ground.

To shut down his father’s estate, respected journalist Jeremy Rudd travels to an isolated desert town outside a military base. Estranged from his secretive, retired general dad, Rudd’s career as a muckraking broadcaster didn’t help things. As a boy, growing up in Hawaii, he was close friends with a young man who went on to become the nation’s first African American president.

But since taking office, that commander in chief, played by Leith M. Burke doing his best President Obama impression, has stopped calling. Rudd’s constant focus on conspiracies and coverups has left him eternally suspicious and unable to form trusting relationships. Still, when he meets his father’s personal secretary, Laurie Larkspur (Agnes Bruckner), there are sparks between them.

Interrupting that potential romance is the discovery of some revealing materials that were safeguarded by his father. If Rudd shares this information with the world, will he be killed? Will anyone even believe him? While the action quotient is dialed way down, potential danger hangs over everything in this film.

Told using a televisual scope, Munch sets his methodical, low-key story in different time periods. George Gerdes plays Eisenhower, who, after being elected to the White House, is told of aliens' existence. This closely guarded secret naturally creates conflict in his administration.

Ian Hart (Professor Quirrell in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”) plays James Forrestal, the late Secretary of Defense. Munch uses Forrestal’s real-life mental illness and suicide, casting them as part of some government conspiracy. Fans of the Errol Morris directed Netflix miniseries “Wormwood” might notice tone similarities, although Munch’s film is not nearly as stylish.

“The 11th Green” is a paranoid viewing experience. Munch, who’s no stranger to difficult stories (see his edgy Sundance film 2004’s “Harry + Max”), has crafted what amounts to an indie revisionist Oliver Stone movie. Performances are uniformly solid, but production values are decidedly lower end. Locations have depth and texture, but the action is limited to long spirited discussions.

It’s fascinating and, at times, compelling, but some viewers expecting a thriller will be disappointed. While exciting potential is always lurking, the script and direction are restrained, which, in a way, only increases the quirky narrative’s credibility. Do aliens exist? “The 11th Green” might have you guessing.

***

A RottenTomatoes.com Tomatometer-approved critic, Jonathan W. Hickman is also an entertainment lawyer, college professor, novelist, and filmmaker. He’s a member of the Atlanta Film Critics Circle, The Southeastern Film Critics Association, and the Georgia Film Critics Association. For more information about Jonathan visit: FilmProductionLaw.com or DailyFIlmFix.com