Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Movie Review #495: "77 Minutes" (2016)

Movie"77 Minutes"
Director: Charlie Minn
Rating: ---
Running Time: ---
Image Source
An in-depth look at the San Ysidro McDonald's massacre of 1984 with a focus on the victims and their families and friends.

Directed by Charlie Minn, "77 Minutes" is a documentary that takes a look at the McDonald's Massacre, a mass shooting which occurred in San Ysidro, a community of San Diego, California, in 1984. This massacre left 21 people dead and 19 more injured. In this in-depth documentary, Minn sits down to interview surviving victims and the relatives of those who lost loved ones. Many of the victims recount their personal experiences, including how they reacted when they realized what was going on, where they hid inside the McDonald's as the shooter kept reloading his various weapons, as well as detailing the carnage they saw in front of them. In a shocking but powerful choice, Minn includes much of the raw police crime scene footage and photos from that fateful day, all of which is extremely graphic and reduced us to tears. He also speaks with some of the members of the police force who responded to the shooting, including former two-time mayor of San Diego Jerry Sanders. At the time, Sanders was a SWAT commander, and though Minn gives the police props for bringing the situation to an eventual close, he also doesn't pull any punches in questioning whether or not things could have been done differently and if, in hindsight, there were any mistakes made. In total, the shooting took 77 minutes to bring to a close, thus the name of the film. There were many odd and now somewhat questionable circumstances which led to this shooting being so drawn out, including Sanders' malfunctioning beeper and his potential whereabouts, the blazing San Diego summer sun beaming down into the McDonald's double-paned windows, directly getting in the way of any accurate shots by police to take out the suspect, the uncertainty of just how many perpetrators were inside the restaurant, and much more.

We commend Charlie Minn's choice to never mention the shooter by name because the piece of human garbage who committed this heinous act in part of our fine city does not deserve to have their name mentioned. As is often the case in America, we are too focused on the perpetrator, plastering the names of those who commit atrocities across the news and social media, leaving the victims of such horrific events to be nothing more than mere statistics. We wish this would change, and "77 Minutes" is a step in the right direction. Instead, Minn focuses on the victims of this tragedy, putting a spotlight on them and their stories, including their lives before the event, who they were as people, and even their heroism during the complete and utter chaos, especially those who died shielding loved ones or the ones who tried to talk to the shooter to change their mind.

Some may question Minn's choice to show the graphic images and police video of the aftermath of the shooting, which shows the bodies of those who died in great detail sprawled inside and outside the McDonald's. This is, however, a documentary on a mass shooting. In a brief Q&A after the film, Minn himself mentioned "this is not a comedy. This is real life, it's as real as it gets," when asked whether or not he thought his documentary was too vivid. It is one thing to hear about the carnage and another thing to see it. It is easy to ignore an event like this when you don't see the aftermath and solely think of all the victims as numbers on a page. To hear that 21 people died is unsettling, but in our society, we are so trained to mourn tragedies like this, and after a short grieving period, we all move on, until a few months, or weeks, and more recently days pass by and the next mass shooting occurs. To see the bodies of the 21 people, many of whom were children, are images you won't soon forget.

At the time of its occurrence, the 77 minute tragedy in San Ysidro was the worst mass shooting in American history, which is horrible enough. It remained the worst mass shooting a mere 7 years. What's worse is that today, it only ranks #5 on this list, meaning things aren't getting better. To top it all off, until the nightclub shooting in Florida this past June, the McDonald's massacre was ranked the #1 "deadliest shooting rampage in which the perpetrator was killed by police as opposed to committing suicide," according to the book Inside the Minds of Mass Murderers: Why They Kill. Though we sought out "77 Minutes" because of our local ties to the story, being lifelong San Diegans, we had no idea the extent of this tragedy because it happened before our time. We were profoundly moved by hearing the stories of those who experienced the tragedy firsthand, and we're glad to see a film that finally focuses on the victims of a crime and not the perpetrator.
Image Source, credit to Gary Johnson for the original photo
My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: ---/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ----%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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