Paul Krik’s slick little Pioneer programmer presents a fictionalized alternative to the hoarse DIY docs about September 11th and the Iraq War. Instead of Truther diagrams and talking heads, Able Danger offers a black-and-white conspiracy thriller in which the not-nutty-sounding protagonist runs a lefty coffeehouse with a cute waitress. But the truth is also out here: the place, Vox Pop, exists (in Brooklyn); the hero’s inside-job theories come from the real-life proprietor’s book; and “Able Danger” refers to a government program that allegedly ID’d the hijackers long before the attacks and buried the facts.
In the movie, coffee jockey and 9/11 journo Tom Flynn (Adam Nee) is visited by a mysterious informant (Elina Lowensohn, from Hal Hartley’s old crew). Soon he’s sparring with government and international thugs. The hide-and-seek is propelled by showy angles and close-ups, surveillance vision, and general good humor and scrappiness. But the quickly dissipating suspense reveals essentially a snappy delivery vehicle for the theories in question, and neither the facts nor the fiction hold up too well.
Krik references film noir, rustling up some heavies and hardboiled patter here and there. Ironically, the connection is intriguing, given the wartime stew of anxieties that originally fostered the movies that came to be known as noir; Krik’s two main riffstones come from either end of the lineage, The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Kiss Me Deadly (1955). Able Danger isn’t our equivalent, nor is it nearly as engrossing, but it does have a snazzy credit sequence fashioned out of a quotation from the neocon Project for a New American Century.