With international tensions heated to the boiling point, terrorism on the minds of millions, TV news more popular than ever, and the threat of a nuclear holocaust once again emerging as a much discussed topic, Wrong Is Right could not have been released at a better time. Take a cue from Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, Richard Brooks seems to believe that doomsday material is best presented as comedy thus reducing the fear inherent in the subject matter until people can respond to what they would otherwise repress.
Books has adapted (from the novel The Better Angels by Charles McCarrey), directed, and produced this ambitious political thriller which touches upon significant social and moral issues on the agenda of all thinking Americans during the 1980s. Some viewers will no doubt be turned off by the many character caricatures in the tale; others may bristle at the story's pushy, polemical, and verbose points about war, politics, and television. But Brooks realistically sees the world as a stage and we as the players; how we react to or run away from the public dramas of our times may well determine the future of this planet.
Wrong is Right takes place sometime in the nebulous future. Giant American spy satellites monitor the activities of countries all over the world. Patrick Hale (Sean Connery) is a famous news reporter for the World Television Network. He is in North Africa doing a feature story on King Awad (Ron Moody), an oil-rich and religious ruler who has built a prosperous empire in the desert. When Sally Blake (Katharine Ross) another reporter, is killed in a bomb blast and the sheik dies shortly afterwards, Hale realizes that he has only had a glimpse of what is really going on.
Rafeeq (Henry Silva), the head of a highly armed terrorist group; Helmut Unger (Hardy Kruger), a sneaky international arms dealer; Homer Hubbard (John Saxon), a clever and dangerous CIA agent; and his boss (G. D. Spradlin) are all after two atomic bombs packed in suitcases which were to have been purchased by King Awad. The person who must determine the planned uses of these weapons is Lockwood (George Grizzard), President of the United States. As he tries to sort out all the details surrounding the terrorist group, the activities of the CIA, and the possible malevolent stratagems of his political opponent in an upcoming election (Leslie Nielsen), Lockwood receives mixed signals from his advisors a black woman Vice President (Rosalind Cash) and a war-mongering general (Robert Conrad).
Richard Brooks presents a bleak future one in which the left-wing terrorists, right-wing generals, and CIA operatives toy with the very existence of the planet. Wrong is Right (the title included) resonates with George Orwell's black comic novel 1984 but, to a greater degree than did that classic work, it stresses the powerful role of the media.
Cultural critic Daniel Boorstin noted years ago: "We do not need to be theologians to see that we have shifted responsibility for making the world interesting from God to the newspaperman." Here the task falls to the TV reporter. Connery and his ratings-hungry boss (Robert Webber) create "news theatre" staring celebrities rather than gifted individuals; truth is swallowed up in a surfeit of dramatic happenings, and politics becomes nothing more than role-playing. In this scenario, information (the facts) is transformed into entertainment and the more violent, the better.
The topical nature of this movie works in its favor, and Brooks has paced the story very briskly. Wrong is Right projects present day amorality in politics, culture, and the use of technology. It should occupy a space alongside Dr. Strangelove, Fail Safe, Seven Days in May, and Twilight's Last Gleaming as a cautionary tale about America.