The words I’m writing now will probably be on the Internet for a long time, which means the NSA and any other governmental surveillance agencies wouldn’t have to look very hard to find out what I think. But what if Big Brother started looking into every part of my life? I might not have to wait long to figure it out, as Sony Pictures is gearing up to bring the world of George Orwell’s dystopian classic Nineteen Eighty-Four to modern audiences with a brand new feature. Cue the echoing groans of disgust.
Before you grumble yourself to sleep, know that there is a silver lining, as the studio is currently courting Oscar-nominated director Paul Greengrass to helm this ambitious project. With his early career spent on acclaimed films like Bloody Sunday and The Theory of Flight, the U.K.-born filmmaker found breakout success with The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. He also created the tense and depressing 9/11 drama United 93, and was most recently responsible for pitting Tom Hanks against Somali pirates in Captain Phillips. The guy knows how to pull high-octane thrills out of serious situations, which is exactly what Nineteen Eighty-Four needs in order to win over audiences these days.
The screenwriter Sony is working with is less well known. According to Deadline, they’ve snatched up playwright James Graham, who is probably best known for penning the book of the Broadway musical version of Finding Neverland. Not a lot of government overlords in the world of Peter Pan.
For those unaware, the prescient Nineteen Eighty-Four takes place in the futuristic superstate Oceania, where party leader Big Brother is always watching. (Usually via posters of big eyes, but more generally with the slew of surveillance cameras and TV monitors set up everywhere.) Our “hero” is the middle class Winston Smith, a member of the Outer Party who is particularly fed up with the way the world works, but can’t do much more than jot down some thoughts about it in his journal. (Not a great move when there are Thought Police all over.) He starts up a love affair with a woman named Julia, but their tryst is soon discovered and Winston soon gets a front row view of just how fucked up this world really is.
The book’s allegorical strengths have become even more relevant these days, with the U.S. government’s surveillance techniques getting outed by Edward Snowden and others like him. (The book even enjoyed a sales bump when all these reports first surfaced.)
Considering how close we are to at least some of the aspects of Orwellian culture, it’ll be extremely interesting to see how Greengrass and Graham approach the material, and how many rapid-fire, hand-to-hand combat scenes there are. Will this new version be better than Michael Radford’s chilling 1984 adaptation? Only time will tell.