What if aliens really did walk among us? What if they brought us technology that could solve the world’s thirst for energy without destroying the planet? What if there were government entities whose sole mission, going back decades, was to keep all of this a secret in order to preserve the status quo? What if every American president was in on it, but was prevailed upon to never reveal the truth? What if a gadfly reporter stumbled upon all this? These questions are the starting point for writer/director Christopher Munch’s sometimes intriguing, sometimes silly sci-fi drama The 11th Green.
Munch, who previously made Letters from the Big Man (2011), the tale of a woman’s involvement with a sasquatch, goes X-Files with a film that runs on two tracks. In one, journalist Jeremy Rudd (Campbell Scott) travels to California when his Air Force officer father, Nelson (Monte Markham), dies. Revelations from Laurie Larkspur (Agnes Bruckner), his dad’s comely last assistant, and the old man’s protégé Larry Jacobsen (Currie Graham), a slippery intelligence operative, convince Jeremy he is on to a big story. Meanwhile, the president of the United States (Leith M. Burke) – nameless, but clearly Barack Obama, right down to a childhood connection to Hawaii – communes with President Dwight Eisenhower (George Gerdes) and an ET named Lars (Tom Stokes), receiving the country’s most closely guarded secrets.
While seemingly tailormade for the QAnon conspiracy aficionados among us – that phrase “Deep State” gets bandied about a lot – The 11th Green is entertaining even for those unwilling to buy into its lunacy. The main location in California’s high desert is evocative and occasionally amusing with the golf course the title refers to providing a bridge between the Eisenhower era and the present day. Scott brings his low-key charm to the tale, while Graham is cheerfully sleazy and Burke makes a convincing stand-in for Obama.
At times, one wishes that someone like David Lynch were the director. In particular, it is easy to imagine the scenes involving the President, Eisenhower, and Lars achieving the eerie aura of Twin Peaks and its Red Room, but Munch never quite gets there.
Also, what is the deal with Lars? He looks like white, European Jesus and Stokes’ stilted performance is perhaps meant to suggest an extraterrestrial’s otherness, but he only comes across as jarringly artificial. And a subplot involving James Forrestal (Ian Hart), the United States’ first Secretary of Defense, a man who in real life suffered from depression and committed suicide, is tasteless.
The 11th Green is handsomely shot with exceptional production design, two more pluses in one mixed bag. It is one of those movies that is both entertaining and irritating, sometimes at the exact same moment. Ultimately, Munch manages to avoid most of the sand traps and other hazards he sets for himself and keeps The 11th Green on the fairway. Mostly. –Pam Grady
The 11th Green is playing at the Roxie Virtual Cinema.