When an autistic child inadvertently cracks the U.S. government’s ultra-secret communications code, the National Security Agency (NSA) tries to protect the viability of the code—by killing the child. [ Mercury Rising credits: Dir: Harold Becker/ Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Simon Lynch/ 108min/ Action-Adventure, Drama/ Individualism]
Should the one be sacrificed for the benefit of the many? That’s the underlying question in this feel-good action/drama about a fight over a nine-year old autistic savant.
It seems that the U.S. government has just spent two billion dollars to produce an “unbreakable” communications code. The code is a key part of the country’s spy apparatus. As part of the testing of the code, a secret message written in it was distributed in puzzle magazines with the promise of a prize to anyone who could decrypt the message. It wasn’t actually expected that anyone would be able to do so, as the code had already been tested under the most rigorous conditions. Enter a nine-year-old autistic savant. He breaks the code and calls in for the prize.
This high-tech code is considered so important to U.S. security that the NSA sends an assassin to kill the boy, but a renegade FBI agent takes exception to that idea and defies all authority to protect this peculiarly-gifted child.
Just before the final climactic gun battle that determines the boy’s fate, the NSA chief explains his collectivist reasoning for ordering the assassination, trying to persuade the heroic FBI agent (Mr. Jeffries) to allow the assassination to happen: “Let’s talk the real world for a moment, shall we, where you’re not some wonderful lone wolf hero, but you’re part of a team, and you’re playing your position. Because that’s what America is, Mr. Jeffries. It’s one big team. Now this might be difficult for you to grasp, but I am a patriot, and a patriot is one who makes the right moral choice. Sometimes it takes a strong man to make that choice. One boy, who cannot survive on his own, one of nature’s mistakes, weighed against the lives of thousands of our people. Think about it.” As it happens, the FBI agent is Bruce Willis, so you can guess how it ends.
The only downside to Mercury Rising is that it requires suspended judgment at times, as certain elements of the story stretch credulity. But it’s still a fair watch, and libertarians especially will appreciate its explicit pro-individualist tone.
“Mercury Rising is the quintessential 1998 movie. We have the classic American hero — deadly, self- reliant, stoic — armed with nothing but grit and a gun, going up against a force that has everything else on its side: technology, trained assassins and the American flag.”