On a mission to make the country forget the dangers of smoking, Big Tobacco spin doctor Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) promotes his product everywhere he goes, and hushes those who bad-mouth cigarettes, all the while trying to remain a role model to his young son.

Netflix, IMDB

Director: Jason Reitman
STC Genre: Institutionalized (Business)

  • “Group” – the tobacco industry, along with other “killer” giants
  • “Choice” – pay the mortgage or be a role model dad? Why, take both!
  • “Sacrifice” – in this case, your morals, your ethics, and perhaps even your soul. Well, something has to go, right?

Gotta love that movie! This is a brilliant move on behalf of filmmakers. The “good” guy is so bad, and is so good at it, that we have to love him just for his brilliance of spinning the evil, and come out making sense while denouncing those who should obviously be making sense in the first place. “The guy could disprove gravity!” – the highest praise out of his mouth.

MILD SPOILER ALERT

Another neat thing about the story is that it makes you think. “Make up your own damn mind”. Lobbyists, politicians, corporations, reporters, even scientists – who knows if what they are saying is true? And while the guy obviously spinning the facts, the way he does it makes you wonder – should we really stick the “POISON” label on the cheddar cheese?

While the movie is obviously Institutionalized, it is in a way the reverse of its classic scheme. The hero doesn’t rebel against the group, instead he stays loyal to the core. And at the end even though he turns the offer down, he still stays loyal to his principles (or rather, to the lack thereof) and goes on just as he was. That way, he doesn’t experience any real character growth. Except maybe becoming more “omnivorous”, worse off than he started. Why stick to the cigarettes if there are so many other profitable things that kill people?

Ironically, it’s the antagonist (the public) who undergoes most of the growth. That way, this movie challenges the very principles of a good movie structure, and quite successfully. The filmmakers themselves “prove the unthinkable”: that the main hero could be much worse than the “villain”, and even triumph at the end, yet the viewers still love to watch it. Brilliant.