The Purge

Yesterday I went to see the new horror/thriller ‘The Purge’. From the same people who made ‘Insidious’ and ‘Sinister’, I was expecting something chilling and terrifying. I was let down in some ways, but the idea the film is based on fascinated me.
This is a two-fold blog, a review and a “what if…” pondering.
Warning: clicking more will show you spoilers!

First, the review:
I spent the vast majority of the film trying to work out where I knew the mother figure, Mary Sandin. Her facial expressions were so familiar to me, but I couldn’t place them for the life of me. A quick IMDb search as the credits started rolling told me that Lena Headey is better known as Cersai Lannister of Game of Thrones.
Once that particular niggle was put to bed, I found several others growing from some severe plot holes. The premise of the film is that the America of the future has introduced the annual purge. A 12-hour period where any and all criminal activity, including murder, becomes legal in order to purge the wrong doing tendencies born out of hate and anger from society. The emergency services are unavailable during this time.
A great idea, right? It’s focused on a single, well-off family whose father creates security systems designed for the purge. However, his son spots a man on the street screaming for help shortly after the purge begins and gives him refuge. A group of upper-middle class supporters of the purge are hunting the man to purge their souls, and without their target, they turn their attention to the Sandin family, his protectors, instead.
There are so many problems with this film, that my enjoyment tolerance was lowered. The house is so big, when the family scatters, before anything has actually happened I might add, it’s impossible for them to find each other. Ridiculous, no? They’re a middle class family in an O.C. designed home (the houses in that show are obscene!) that seems to be endless.
Leading straight from this point, the daughter (after a pretty unsurprising surprise) runs off. The house is in lockdown. She is totally safe. And yet, there seems to be some level of urgency to find her because it is the night of the purge. This seemed a stupid story line to me. The characters had previously discussed spending the evening in a usual way because they were totally safe. This was, of course, before SPOILER WARNING the dad killed the daughter’s boyfriend. But is it not understandable that the daughter would run away? That she would not want to be with her father right then? She’s not leaving the house, so where is the problem?
The main “bad guy” seemed thoroughly underused. Tony Oller makes a wonderful psychopathic killer, enabled by the purge. He was totally wasted in this plot.
It’s an enjoyable film, though don’t expect to be totally satisfied. What promises to be a potentially great thriller, is a lacklustre, half baked stab at politics. The characters seem to change their minds dramatically with no real explanation as to why, making the plot do 180 degree turns. With a little more time spent on the plot, this could have been a first class thriller. Instead, it’s a throw-away film, with the potential for a great discussion afterwards. In saying that though, it is definitely worth catching, as I said, just for the premise.

So, onto that great discussion. Except, instead of afterwards, my friends and I had the discussion beforehand over food.
If crime was legal for 12 hours, what would you do? When I first thought about it, I immediately thought of all the theft, and (quite genuinely) wondered whether insurance would cover that sort of theft and damage. I also thought of the violence and looting that happened during the London riots, and that wasn’t even legal. People saw the opportunity and took it. Imagine the destruction if it was legal.
It took me a while to even consider the fact that theft is not the only crime that would be legal.
In fits of anger at certain individuals, I have had that fleeting thought “if murder was legal, I’d do it”. But would I?
The discussion with friends, one girl said she’d sit in her house with a shotgun and shoot anyone who tried to get in. Ok, but what if, like in the film, there was a fair few people trying to get in. You’re out manned and out gunned? Well, we hadn’t seen the film at that point and didn’t mention that.
One guy, said he would go out and steal what he wanted. Much like the looting in London. So I asked, would he stop at theft? What would stop him from murder? He said he couldn’t do it. We then turned to which celebrities we would off, given the chance.
The other girl in our party decided that she would kidnap her favourite celebrities.
On careful consideration, and discussion about the topic of murder, bringing in The Hunger Games too, I decided there’s a line between self defence and murder. It reminded me of a conversation in ‘In Bruges’, between Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. Gleeson says he was on a hit but someone else came at him with a bottle, so he killed him too. He is filled with regret as he says this, but Farrell points out that the other feller could have killed Gleeson with the bottle, so his reaction was self defence, not murder.
Killing someone because they could kill you… That’s a reaction in the moment. But seeking someone out to kill them, there’s forethought in that, planning, a certain cold bloodedness. It’s inhuman. Standing over someone, knowing you have the power to end their life… I would imagine it’s an incredible feeling. But actually doing it, ending their life…
Although murder is legal for 12 hours, it will stay with you forever. It’s a cardinal sin. Your act of taking someone’s life splits your own soul. Even though you’re not prosecuted, could you live with your actions?
On careful consideration, I don’t think I could.

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