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Hollywood explores terrorism

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A review of the current Readers Digest:

The cover story looks at recent movies about terrorism, which have become chillingly and eerily realistic.

For instance, the 1999 film "The Siege" seems infused with uncanny premonitions of the 9/11 attacks and the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In "Executive Decision" (1996), terrorists use a plane as a weapon. Although "Black Hawk Down" (2001) depicts a past rather than a future event — the costly 1993 raid by U.S. troops on a stronghold in Somalia — it successfully conveys the frenzied chaos of modern urban warfare like that occurring in Iraq.

Hollywood, you'll read, has gone all out to achieve the sophistication and realism of such flicks, seeking help from the Department of Defense and other military experts. At times, too, the Pentagon draws on the movie industry's skills; after 9/11, the story says, it consulted film writers, directors and producers to see if they could give insight into possible future terrorism scenarios.

A question arises: Could terrorists use movies as inspiration for real-life attacks? No links between American films and terrorist strikes have been detected, but Hollywood tries to be cautious. "You want to be accurate," says director Mimi Leder ("The Peacemaker," 1997), "but you don't want to show someone how to make a bomb."