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The Interview: Is this greatest publicity stunt in the history of the movies?

By Simon Kelner

Published 26/12/2014

Controversial: The Interview
Controversial: The Interview

If I - a trained journalist - can be of any use to you, it is this: I can challenge the official version of events on your behalf. I am not a crazy conspiracy theorist, but I was brought up not always to believe what I'm told.

It is a journalist's duty to question authority and to search for the truth beyond what we are presented with - a job that's even more important in an age when anyone with a mobile phone and something to say can disseminate unsourced, unchecked news to the world.

So, let me just put this one out there. Do you think it's possible that the North Korean regime was not actually behind the cyber-attack on Sony Pictures? Could it be that a teenage geek, from his bedroom in, say, Palo Alto, California, hacked into the Sony system and the movie company was so embarrassed that it had to find someone to blame - and who better than the bogeymen from Pyongyang?

Could it even be a brilliantly orchestrated publicity campaign for The Interview, the spoof film that - allegedly - so angered Kim Jung-un?

Or, just maybe, Sony wanted the world to know that Angelina Jolie was not a superhero of world peace, but, in fact, was a "minimally talented spoiled brat", or that George Clooney gets upset by bad reviews, just like everyone else.

Maybe I am a crazy conspiracy theorist. But I do think the questions are worth asking, because there's something that doesn't quite smell right about this story.

Would this totalitarian regime - steeped, as it is, in secrecy and certainty - be so threatened by the latest Seth Rogen vehicle that it felt necessary to break cover and go to such extraordinary lengths to blackmail Sony Pictures into cancelling the release of the film? Really? I don't wholly buy it.

Perhaps we're being taken for suckers and we're all bit-part players in the greatest life-imitates-art film script in Hollywood history.

After all, it's a quite brilliant plot, if a little implausible. We can only imagine the meeting when the idea is being pitched. It's Argo meets Bananas meets The Matrix. It's Borat meets Forrest Gump. It stars Clooney and Jolie, as well as Rogen.

There will be acres and acres of free publicity. You, Sony Pictures, will have to take a short-term reputational hit for bowing to pressure not to release it widely (apart, belatedly, from 200 US arthouse cinemas yesterday), but when everyone discovers the true genius of the idea - the world's first reality movie - you'll rightly be regarded as light-entertainment pioneers. Plus, of course, there's a political point to be made.

We will be able to portray North Korea as a brooding, impenetrable kingdom, where the population is kept under a dictatorial yoke and - can you believe it? - they don't even know who Seth Rogen is.

You get the point.

But let's consider that what we're being told is true. Doesn't this then paint the North Koreans in a rather benign light?

Angered by what they perceive to be an unwarranted insult, what was the weapon they used in reprisal? Not force, not heavy-handed diplomatic wrangling, not sanctions. No, they chose embarrassment.

Whatever the truth of the story, North Korea has given us something to think about this festive season.

  • The Readers' Editor is away

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