Politics are made much more explicit in a necessary way in Denis Hennelly’s Goodbye World (2013).
The film is not as pretentious as you may think, but its principle characters sure as hell are. Denis Hennelly replaced typical personality archetypes (the jock, the virgin, etc.) with political archetypes, like Benji (Mark Webber) the enviro-terrorist mouthpiece, James (Adrian Grenier) the paranoid survivalist hippie, Becky (Caroline Dhavernas) the constitution-reciting conservative everyone else hates, or Laura (Gaby Hoffmann) the disgraced Senator’s assistant/lover. Among this crew are politically passive hackers Lev and Lily, and Nick, he who drives the love triangle. Not only have all these characters known each other since college, but they are also… just… awful. When it comes to creating a tense atmosphere for the sake of a good apocalypse movie, it actually pays off.
The world ends when the phrase “Goodbye World” floods every electronic device in the U.S., carrying with it a virus that shuts down technological civilization as we know it. *Squints at hackers!* This comes as a surprise to James and his HACKER wife Lily (Kerry Bishé) and their guests, estranged friends and couple Becky and Nick (Ben McKenzie), who are staying at James’ cabin which is considerably off the grid as it is. The rest of their friends join them, including HACKER Lev. Things take a turn for the worst when two loose-cannon soldiers show up at their door and wreak all kinds of havoc on the neighborhood.
“What a huge cloud of archetypes”
While each of the characters have their own views, they are actually quite selfish. James has created a survivalist paradise complete with solar panels, a full garden, and a bunker full to the brim with supplies. This does not make him a bad person; what does is his enthusiasm to preach hospitality to the environment and our fellow man while moments later peeling out of a parking lot as he watches his neighbor get robbed by bikers. Benji had previously served 5 years in prison for burning down a farm factory and now tours the country’s colleges to talk about how important it is to be revolutionary. It turns out he is a huge hypocrite who is only good for spitting phrases that belong on a Banksy painting while lying on various surfaces all day. Meanwhile, all Lily does is get wasted all day every day, Lev serves the function of being only one of two non-assholes in the bunch, and Nick stirs a love triangle that the film could have done without.
The story is very familiar, but the instillation of politics within these paranoid sacks of bones forces audiences to think about what makes a society. Laura spends the entire movie taking everyone’s crap about her past, but she is the only person that seems to realize that while living in your own world sounds all good and free, civilization cannot survive without interaction between people to create a system of rules and goods production.
(With the help of George Washington cosplay!)
“DUH!” you shout at the screen, but the film actually reminds us that we exist in a time where these characters and real people are slowly but surely polarizing themselves in the name of their own politics, whether they are concerned with food, social programs, their rights, etc. It’s only a matter of time before we have to consider what would happen if what we preach actually became what we are.