I don't normally look for deep messages in movies, aside from
"The Godfather," which contains most of the lessons anyone needs in life.
But the contrast between "Darkman," starring Liam Neeson, and "Marathon
Man," starring Dustin Hoffman, is interesting, especially in light of the
current debate on Iraq.
In "Marathon Man," Dustin Hoffman plays a university student
studying for his Ph.D. His brother, a U.S. undercover agent played by Roy
Scheider, is killed by Lawrence Olivier, a former Nazi looking to reclaim
jewels stashed in a New York bank. To make a long story short, the last
scene opens with Hoffman holding Olivier at gunpoint, forcing him to swallow
his own jewels. Olivier swallows one and then says, "You'll just have to
shoot me." When Hoffman hesitates, Olivier states: "You won't do it. You
don't have it in you." Hoffman doesn't do it, so Olivier pulls a blade on
him. Hoffman tosses the jewels down a flight of stairs; Olivier runs down
the stairs trying to save the jewels, trips, falls and impales himself on
his own knife.
In "Darkman," Liam Neeson plays a scientist who is permanently
scarred after a corporate strongman, played by Colin Friels, orders Neeson's
lab to be blown up. In the final scene, Neeson and Friels duke it out on the
framework of a skyscraper, 650 feet above the ground. When Friels slips,
Neeson catches him by the foot and holds him upside down. Friels begins
laughing. "You let me die, you become as bad as I am -- worse!" he scoffs.
"You can't. I know you too well. Dropping me, it's not really an option for
you. It's not something you can live with." Neeson drops him. Splat. Neeson
mutters: "I'm learning to live with a lot of things."
Believe it or not, the contrast between the two endings sheds
light on the partisan battle that has erupted concerning congressional
approval of an upcoming attack on Iraq. Like both Olivier's Nazi and Friels'
corrupt businessman, Saddam Hussein is a vicious brute who needs to get it,
one way or another. The question is whether we'll dither around and hope for
him to impale himself, or whether we'll drop him 65 stories to the concrete.
Those who oppose this war want to dither. "You don't start out
by putting the gun to their head and saying we're going to shoot you if you
blink," snorted Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Idaho), who later impugned President
Bush's honesty, saying, "I think the president would mislead the American
"There is no evidence that I have seen that indicates there is
an imminent threat," wailed Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). "They don't
want to be having knocked on the door during prayer and say, 'Open up this
building in five minutes,'" said Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.). "They want to
be treated with some dignity and respect."
Dignity and respect? Did I miss something here, or has Saddam
Hussein ignored U.N. resolution upon U.N. resolution demanding the return of
weapons inspectors to Iraq? And even when the weapons inspectors were
allowed in the country, wasn't Hussein simply playing cat and mouse by
shuttling his weapons of mass destruction from building to building? Isn't
this the dictator who used chemical weapons against his own people? Who
fired Scud missiles on Israel, a non-combatant in the Gulf War? Since when
are we supposed to "respect" vicious dictators?
Then, there are those in Congress who want to go get Saddam.
"I'm not willing to wait until something happens to this country," stated
Sen. James Inhoff (R-Okla.). Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) called the Iraq
naysayers "spokespersons for the Iraqi government," which is undoubtedly
true -- Hussein's demands are being voiced by appeasement-minded government
The lawmakers who continue to ask for "just one more chance" for
Saddam to let in weapons inspectors are playing with fire. In "Marathon
Man," Olivier pulls a knife on a pacifistic Hoffman, and only by luck does
Hoffman avoid his own demise. If America appeases Saddam, it is only a
matter of time until he pulls a nuclear weapon -- and we can't rely on
Saddam to fall on his own knife.
Granted, this war may not be pretty. It will probably involve
civilian casualties; it will certainly involve heavy use of the military.
Saddam thinks we won't be able to live with the consequences of an attack on
Baghdad. We're learning to live with a lot of things.