Movie Review: Alongside Night (2015, updated version)

An impressive and important artwork in the libertarian cultural oeuvre (8/10)[1]
Written and directed by J. Neil Schulman, produced by Patrick Heller
Reviewed by Brian R. Wright

Alongside_NightPatrick Heller of Liberty Coin Service, who financed this film, is a personal friend of mine and political ally going back to the early 1970s. To use a military analogy, back in the day of Rampant Campus Collectivism we charged up a lot of the same hills under heavy fire… and continue to fight for reason and liberty in our much more sinister Era of Polished Global Fascism. I’d say we’ve managed to secure some beach heads for what we (with others)—and certainly the writer/director of Alongside Night, Mr. J. Neil Schulmansee as the ultimate if not imminent victory of Worldwide Liberty.

In 1979, when Neil’s novel was written, only a handful of authors had emerged to work Ayn Rand’s corner (philosophical individualism) or, say, Robert Heinlein’s hard science fiction path—Heinlein had a more martial-society ideal for the heroic person. [Yet, Heinlein came up with any number of mindbending plot devices and convincing tech innovations.] Anyway, Alongside Night along with L. Neil Smith’s Probability Broach were the ones most of us contemporaries in the modern libertarian movement read and discussed. 

PageThe initial version of the movie arrived in 2013, which I watched at the Libertarian Party of Michigan state convention in Grand Rapids. The current version has some significant enhance- ments from that earlier edition: more seamless and up-to-date communications and computer technology, improved set design and action sequences, and some additional notable modern liberty movement celebs such as Adam Kokesh and, especially, singer Jordan Page. Check out the “Unchained” anthem on YouTube here. Definitely worth the price of admission. Indeed, this scene—where both Adam, as host, and Jordan keynote a spontaneous demonstration that moves the plot forward—shows what the movie is and is not.

Or what we may wish the movie could be and what we need to accept, gratefully, the movie offers on its own terms. Like the movie’s depiction of the underground Agorist society, Aurora, the above overground protest by pro-freedom types against the government is, well, thin. The plot of Alongside Night requires that the general protest and the specific one be LARGE and DENSE, also that Aurora be a stimulating, diverse, thriving bazaar, intimating thousands of people. Without a Hollywood-level budget you can’t get the social scale or texture you need to bring the book’s full potential to life.

Schulman and Heller deserve kudos for managing to hire Kevin Sorbo and his wife, Sam; Jake Busey; and Star Trek Voyager‘s Garrett Wang and Tim Russ—all of whom acquit themselves well, being successful TV-and-film actors. The casting of the teenage Eliot Vreeland and Lorimer with Christian Kramme and Reid Cox, respectively, is fine. They do more than an adequate job personifying teen ideological action heroes. [Whether their characters are too young to be believable-appealing heroes is a separate question. Would a 16-year-old Eliot spend the night with a good-hearted hooker, then in the morning exude the confident, debonair manner of a Sean Connery James Bond? Welllll… okay. But it’s a little normalcy-shaking, even for a boundary-questioning fellow like me.]

On a positive note: Regarding Kramme and the screenplay writing, you must not miss the one-minute student Liberty Economics 101 report Eliot delivers via smartphone video upload to the class at Ansonia High. Toward the beginning of the story, a golden nutshell.

To paraphrase my book review in terms of the movie:

“… instead of merely hanging on to survive freely in the interstices of coercive-government-dominated society, these RACkers [RAC=Revolutionary Agorist Cadre] practice focused nonviolent resistance against the establishment —to speed its demise.

“That presents conflict—states do not like to be explicitly ‘demised’—, hence dramatic potential for confrontation, especially as the plot moves along with Elliot and his new entourage seeking to locate and/or rescue Dad, Mom, and Sis. It’s a highly satisfying action story combined with plenty of food for thought, the culminating issue being ‘can an established coercive state be modified as Jefferson wrote, not ‘to be destructive to the rights of life, liberty, or property’ or is it time for humanity to move on and leave states as such in the dustbin of history?’.  Fade to audience. What do we think?

“In light of the monster globalist-state ravenously devouring our substances, today, how can the question Alongside Night poses be any more timely? It’s a good humanitarian flick that will open your mind, as well as, less so, your heart… which nonetheless will beat rapidly for the good guys in their hours o’ need and, ultimately, resolution. Good summer fun. Take the dvd to the beach, share it with someone you love or, better yet, your liberal and conservative stick-in-the-muds.”

While I prefer literature over film in highly conceptual works, the transition of Night to the screen is superb. I do question some production choices, mere quibbles. Pay attention to the movement of the ideas. They come at you fairly quickly in film, so stay alert. You’ll be rewarded accordingly. Frankly, I feel the movie Alongside Night is best targeted toward junior-high or even upper grade-school bright kids; public school children are so saturated with social conformity and the perceptual-emotional mode of consciousness, that AN can be an epiphany of mental/spiritual liberation. [Ideally, augmented with a well-written study and discussion guide.]

Alongside Night is a sui generis film that supplies a fair helping of emotional fuel as ‘we’ the humans energetically take on ‘they’ the Men of the Power Sickness, of whatever origin or composition, that would forever crush the human spirit under sadistic, corrupt authority. Where is that Revolutionary Agorist Cadre? We need it NOW. Sign me up!

[1] Just a note that the IMDb rating is a consequence of a coordinated cyberattack of 1s [which IMDb has, outrageously, done nothing to correct]; a quick algebraic exercise shows the real IMDb rank would be on the order of a respectable ‘6’.

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