Accuracy

It seems to me it is frequently the case in movie thrillers, particularly the complex variety, that inconsistencies and errors creep in.  For example, I noted several errors/ inconsistencies in Arbitrage, the news film starring Richard Gere.  Gere plays a billionaire hedge fund manager who is leading the good life.  (He has Laetitia Casta, no less, as a mistress.)  An investment in a Russian mining venture turns sour because the Russians will not permit the metal to be exported.  This is rather unlikely, though it is possible that the Russians have decided to use all of the mine’s output domestically.  But, in that case it would still be making money.  Could the hedge fund get the money out of Russia?  Even oligarchs fleeing Russia are able to get their money out of the country.  Not a credible scenario.  It would have been more credible to have the venture fail for environmental reasons, but no savvy billionaire investor is going to make a mistake like that.  Then to cover up the $400 million hole in his fund, he borrows $400 million from another investor.  (Gere wants his fund to look like a winner so he can sell it.)  Whoever wrote this into the script doesn’t understand accounting.  A four hundred million dollar loss can’t be offset by borrowing the same amount.

Gere has an automobile accident while driving with Casta.  She is killed, while he has superficial injuries (?).  To protect his good name, he flees the scene of the accident, and, at a gas station, he makes a collect call to a young black man whom he has befriended in the past.  The young man picks up Gere and takes him home at 4:30 am.

A police detective suspects that Gere was driving the car and has left the scene of the accident.  He says that Gere’s cell phone records show that he went to a gas station.  (I doubt that this is possible: the location of a cell phone can be traced at the time, but not historically; to do so would require the service providers to store enormous quantities of data.)

To put pressure on the young man, the detective produces a photo, taken at a toll booth, of a car with which has his license plate.  This is intended to prove that the young man was in his car, when he says he was home.  The story line is that the police altered the ‘tapes’ from the toll booth.  How this was done is not clear.  Wouldn’t it have been more sensible for the police to have doctored a photo with software?

Apart from problems like these, I took an immediate dislike of Gere’s character.  He pretends to be a loyal family man, but this is clearly not the case: he is late for important family gatherings.  So, at the end, when Gere’s future hangs in the balance, I have no sympathy for him.  For me, when writing about a villain, I think the reader should have a trace of sympathy for the villain, or at least understand him.

I think it is fair to say that it is not to easy, in a book, to ‘pull the wool over the reader’s eyes’.  It’s all there in black and white.  If one were to write in chapter 9 that a character wore a pink dress, but in chapter 3 it says ‘she hated pink’, what would the reader think?  He would think that the writer was either sloppy or didn’t remember.  Technical (or accounting) details can be important to some readers.  If these details are inaccurate, some readers may not notice, but those who do will question the author’s credibility.

I frequently find my self going back to check something I had written earlier.  If I find an inconsistency, something has to be put right.  Sometimes I write about something on which I’m not an expert.  In The Iranian Scorpion, for example, opium is harvested and converted to heroin.  Since I knew this was possible, I could have just said: “The opium was harvested and converted to heroin.”  But to take this shortcut would have taken a great deal of significance out of the story.  So, I did the research, and in The Iranian Scorpion, it tells exactly how opium is harvested and converted to heroin.  Harder work for the author, but it makes it more interesting for the reader.

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