Live by Night
The key question behind Live by Night isn’t so much “Why did they bother?” as “What went wrong?”
Last week on CompuServe there was a discussion about the Most Depressing Movie of All Time. The finalists included "Johnny Got His Gun," "Testament" and "Midnight Express." If there'd been an otherworldly sci-fi category, "Screamers" would be right at the top of the list. It's not exactly a bad movie; it's made with a certain imagination and intelligence. But its future is so grungy and grim it makes our current mess look like Utopia.
The year is 2078. The planet, Sirius 6B, is the source of a substance that solves all of Earth's energy problems. The drawback is that obtaining this substance can be fatal to the miners, who die of radiation poisoning. For years there has been a cold war on Earth and a hot war on Sirius 6B between the miners union and the energy company. As the story opens, Hendricksson (Peter Weller) is a soldier leading a group of miners, holed up in a vast bunker in the side of a hill in a landscape that looks like Death Valley after being strip-mined.
A man staggers out of the desert. They're ready to shoot him, but a Screamer gets him first. Screamers are weapons used by the miners. They're nasty little automatons that burrow under the surface of the sand, have razor-sharp saws to cut off arms and legs, and are guided by tiny on-board computers. Their full name: Autonomous Mobile Swords.
The messenger is quickly sliced up, but his message is intriguing: The other side wants to enter peace talks immediately.