The authors of Weaponized join us at MulhollandBooks.com to share the films that inspired their debut thriller.
North By Northwest (1959), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
The definitive mistaken identity thriller. Master screenwriter Ernest Lehmann said he wanted to write “the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures,” and did he ever succeed. Like Weaponized’s Kyle West, Cary Grant’s Roger Thornhill is on the run, trying in vain to convince everyone who he really is (or isn’t). If you ever want to write a chase story with an espionage backdrop this is really the only one you need to study. We sure have.
Collateral (2004), dir. Michael Mann
Weaponized is part of a style that we refer to as “neon noir,” and Michael Mann is the Jackson Pollack of that milieu. Every one of his films is essential, but Collateral is the high point of his experimentation with mixing high-def and traditional film. And if that wasn’t enough, it has one of Tom Cruise’s most memorable performances, and you can literally watch Jamie Foxx becoming a star. The scene where Foxx’s Max has to pretend to be Cruise’s ice-cold killer Vincent for a meeting with a drug lord was essential viewing for us during the writing of Weaponized. The video above shows you one of the most enervating action sequences in years and why Mann is the contemporary master.
Strangers on a Train (1951), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
More Hitchcock you say! Yes. The master of suspense working with source material from the great Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley) proved to be a match made in doppelganger hell. Both the book and the film—about two people who swap identities during a chance encounter—were highly influential to the set-up of Weaponized. Be sure to pay close attention to the shoes in the clip above.
Apocalypse Now (1979), dir. Francis Ford Coppola
A fall-down, flat-out masterpiece on its own terms, but most importantly, this classic Vietnam saga taught us that you could fuse the insanity of the outer landscape with the inner tumult of your main character.
Demonlover (2002), dir. Olivier Assayas
Most people don’t know this one, and that’s a shame, because we consider it one the best films of the 2000s. A corporate espionage movie that’s also a deep meditation on the electronically mediated and atomized 21st century. Plus it’s got a killer soundtrack by Sonic Youth. Proof that you don’t have to slow down the pace to make people think. The trailer above is only a sample of how revolutionary this one really is . . .
The Passenger (1975), dir. Michelangelo Antonioni
A displaced American in a foreign locale. An amiable stranger with a secretive occupation. A mysterious woman with divided motives. Death, doppelgangers, politics, and a screed against the emptiness of the modern media and society. You might say this one influenced Weaponized a bit. However, a word to the wise, this is an Antonioni movie, which is to say: he doesn’t care if you’re entertained. Also the film climaxes in what many consider the greatest tracking shot in film history. Judge for yourself above.
Black Rain (1989), dir. Ridley Scott
Again, maybe not the best Ridley Scott movie (see: Alien for David; Blade Runner for Nick), but another prime example of “neon noir.” Influential during Weaponized not only for the patented sheen Scott painted on Asia, but also because it featured a morally ambiguous protagonist, Michael Douglas’s Nick Conklin, who may or may not have committed a crime—yet somehow you still root for him. Douglas is just fantastic in this scene above.
Man On Fire (2004), dir. Tony Scott, The Bourne Supremacy (2004), dir. Paul Greengrass
These two come as a pair because they changed the grammar of film and pacing in ways we’re still trying to process. Not only are they great character-driven CIA stories, but both are textbook examples of how to treat film as a more subjective medium—as projections of the characters’ inner psyches—as opposed to a traditional omniscient narrative. That this experiment was carried out in two big-budget Hollywood thrillers is even more exceptional. Watch the clips above to get an idea of how groundbreaking these two are.
Biutiful (2011), dir. Alejando Gonzalez Innaritu
No one shoots urban squalor quite like Innaritu. His palate is just as striking as Michael Mann’s, a jangled mix of expressionism and realism. He’s a true poet of the unexpected, who can make the ugly and shattered beautiful—something we definitely tried to accomplish in Weaponized. On top of which, the film is also a trenchant exploration of the shadow economy exploiting foreign workers.
The Fugitive (1993), dir. Andrew Davis
Once you’ve finished North by Northwest, move onto this modern classic to study the dynamics of the perfect chase film. The hunted is only as good as the hunter, and they don’t come any better than Tommy Lee Jones’s US Marshall Sam Gerard. Smart. Suspenseful. Action-packed. If you can harness even a small fraction of this movie’s intensity you’ve more than done your job.
Inception (2010), dir. Christopher Nolan
There are a lot of reasons to like this twisty, high-concept film, but what truly elevates it is the same thing that grounds it: Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cobb: a fascinatingly complex protagonist with a rich, dark backstory, who, like Kyle West, is a man without a country, in exile, desperate to find a way home. A critically-lauded sci-fi heist film—but should we expect anything less from Nolan? Plus, Tom Hardy and that Mombasa chase sequence are magic and helped shape some of Weaponized’s Cambodia-set action pieces.
Now that you’ve read abouts its inspiration, start reading Weaponized.