The Conspiracy (Canada, 2012)
One of the central images of The Conspiracy is a scattering of newspaper articles taped to a wall, with sticky-notes and lengths of coloured wool connecting them. This image serves as perfect shorthand for the film itself: it is something you have seen many times before, implemented in so obvious a manner as to be a cliché. Also, like the conspiracy theorist responsible for the collage, I find myself having to search deeply to find anything of substance in The Conspiracy.
The Conspiracy takes the form of a pseudo-documentary, a format almost as irritating as found-footage films. Worse, in this case, the latter half of the film is shot using hidden cameras carried about the persons of the protagonists, so the only scenes that have the potential for scares or drama are undermined by shaky camera work and blurry picture quality.
The premise is that a small group of independent film-makers have decided to shoot a documentary about conspiracy theorists. One of their interviewees (who looks alarmingly like me) vanishes mysteriously, and this leads a crew-member to try to reproduce his work. In the process, he uncovers the existence of a powerful secret society, finds a source with inside information, and takes his investigation in increasingly reckless directions.
My main complaint about The Conspiracy is that the decent work it does in setting up the situation in the first act is steadily undermined by lazy and obvious plotting. Having read the short summary in the previous paragraph, try to work out how the story would progress. The chances are that you just got it right, especially if you’ve seen The Wicker Man. If you came up with something different, I wish you had been the one writing the script.
Everything else about The Conspiracy is satisfactory, barring the shaky-cam work in the last act. The characters are interesting and well-portrayed; the tie-ins with existing conspiracy theories are competently researched, if superficial; and there is something of a sense of menace to the conclusion. The end product, though, is dull. The most likely theory I can offer as to why such a promising film was botched so badly is that the real powers-that-be got to the film-makers and convinced them to produce something that would make conspiracy theories too boring to engage with.
It felt a bit by the numbers, like stuff left out of an X-Files episode, but the shaky-cam stuff was the part that really annoyed me (perhaps it’s more accurate to say that it took me out of the film). I liked the idea that the world government/Illuminati were Mithras-worshippers. I liked the denouement fine too.
I did like the Mithras aspect, as it’s a religion you don’t see come up very often. I knew a chap years back who worshipped Mithras, so it was even a subject I knew something about. It would have been nice to see it explored a bit more, but it was a pleasing bit of colour.