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Spike Lee closing in on Nagasaki Deadline

Returning to the tense terrain that yielded exciting results in 2006 with Inside Man, Spike Lee is close to a deal to direct another thriller, Nagasaki Deadline. The Guardian says it’s an anti-terrorist nail-biter that Martin Campbell wanted to do a decade ago — until 9/11 made the subject too touchy for anyone to go near.

It centres on a desperate race to thwart two terrorist attacks on American soil. The agent heading up the investigations begins to realise that he must think outside the box and consider theories that the crime is tied to historical events if he is to save lives.

The FBI agent — described as “emotionally damaged” — must sort through a tangle of historical clues sparking connections in his own head, so it sounds like the screenplay will be rife with paranoia and conspiracy theories. Not an outlandish premise, since many analysts have found patterns in the dates of actual attacks over the past several years.

I’ve always felt Inside Man and 25th Hour are right behind Do the Right Thing as Spike Lee’s very best films, so I’m glad to see him back in clockwork crime-stalker mode. Some were wondering a few days ago how David Fincher will fare with a story as straightforward as The Social Network, stepping outside his usual high-concept comfort-zone.

But some of the best films by my favorite directors are those that don’t seem to fit neatly into their oeuvre. David Lynch stripped away his trademark strangeness for The Straight Story. David Cronenberg’s last two forays into gangland tension have been far more interesting to me than the often schlocky horror that made him famous. I watched Ridley Scott’s Black Rain again this week and it reminded me what a visceral director Scott can be when he doesn’t have to haul around a lot of ponderous baggage. Feel the same way about Scorsese’s sensational Shutter Island. So yes, I’m really looking forward to seeing Spike Lee get gritty again with another sophisticated urban thriller.