Conspiracy theorists have long been disdained and discounted by the social majority as psychiatric troublemakers with an agenda all their own. But do such generalizations hold true in all cases, and if not, what are the deciding factors that separate fact from fabrication?
Filmmaker Eric Stacey focuses upon one such conspiracy theorist in his new feature film, UNTHINKABLE: An Airline Captain’s Story. In UNTHINKABLE, Marshall Philips, a commercial airline pilot with ties to the CIA, publishes a book claiming that the American government engineered the 9/11-attacks of 2001. Shortly thereafter, Philips is found shot to death in his home, along with his two adolescent children and the family dog. The county sheriff rules the crime a murder-suicide, has the house cleaned, and the bodies cremated. Case closed.
Stacey’s docu-drama is based upon the true case of former government contract pilot Philip Marshall, who published his thoughts about 9/11 in The Big Bamboozle: 9/11 and the War on Terror. Marshall also published Lakefront Airport, outlining his involvement in the 1980s as a covert operative for the DEA and CIA.
While I can certainly understand why Stacey was intrigued by the highly controversial life and death of Philip Marshall, I don’t think that UNTHINKABLE comes across as a strong and authentic rendition of Marshall’s personal life. While Stacey does outline to some degree Marshall’s domestic situation prior to the crime: estranged wife, partial custody of teenaged son and daughter, possible drug and alcohol issues, etc., I feel that more precise information about his marital status and relationship with his wife might have explained more in terms of Philips himself, and the alleged murder-suicide. For example: were the couple separated or divorced? What was Marshall’s wife really like, and how long was their marriage functional? In the film, all that we really learn about Sharon Philips is that she’s away on a business trip, and that her (ex?) spouse supports her independence. In other words, I would have liked to see all possibilities for a criminal motive, as opposed to just one.
Also, while I thought Randall Paul did a very decent job of portraying the mysterious Marshall Philips, and Shade Streeter was very believable as Mike, I felt that the remaining supporting cast came across too comically to be taken seriously in a truth-based movie. In addition, I found the overall tempo of the film very slow, many scenes way too dark to catch subtle details, and numerous audio inconsistencies. I also felt that the constant intercuts of news footage naming Philip Marshall, juxtaposed with Marshall’s character/doppelganger, Marshall Philips, about as confusing as it gets.
Still, I did find the cinematic concept of UNTHINKABLE somewhat provocative in terms of issues raised about so called, “conspiracy theorists,” and whether or not this is often just a label for freethinking men and women who happen to disagree with the norm. It is for that reason alone that I am most interested in seeing more work from Eric Stacey.
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