After 9/11, there was a bit of a question with how
Hollywood was going to deal with the subject and the larger subject of terrorism and how to portray it on film. But while that’s a fertile ground for a lot of different stories, I’m looking forward to more films where it’s part of the backdrop signifying a changed world but not the focal point. 9/11 changed
America, no doubt, but many parts of the world had already been coping with terrorist acts within their own country, and accordingly the films coming from these parts of the world tend to gravitate toward the backdrop motif rather than direct re-enactments or tales of inspiring heroism.
Incendiary fits the bill perfectly. It started as a 2005 novel from British author Chris Cleave about a woman who sees news of her husband and son being killed on TV in a large-scale
London suicide bombing as she is having sex with a newspaper columnist on her sofa. Her perspective in the novel is defined by a series of letters she writes to Osama Bin Laden that also chronicle her increasingly unsteady mindstate. She eventually becomes involved with another man who’s an anti-terrorist officer, but events between her, the columnist, and his girlfriend reach a critical mass and bad things happen. Real bad things.
From that description alone, you might write this off as some kind of lurid relationship flick, but the novel touches on a lot of issues of identity, class, politics, and loss as
London transforms into a very different and divided city that almost echoes post-Katrina
New Orleans, but this, of course, was written before the real-life London bombings or Hurricane Katrina. Good stuff. Now, it’s been adapted to a motion picture that’s going to star Michelle Williams as the widow and Ewan McGregor as the newspaper guy. While I know the events of the novel can be filmed, I do hope the flick will fully capture the heavily internalized struggles of the widow and nail the context with other world events without being overbearing. This sort of material is so much easier to handle in print, but I’m encouraged by the casting because I think Williams is talented enough to tell a lot of the story with her face, which would be a requisite for making this work. Either way, they start filming at the end of this month.