Watching a blockbuster, you might imagine that science fiction is a faraway world of things that could never intrude on our real lives. Here are 7 movies that are thrilling and a little too close for comfort.
28 Days later – When it came out 28 Days Later was a fresh new take on the Zombie genre. Instead of the dead rising from their graves, the living were infected with a rage virus which drove them to ravenously desire flesh. Unfortunately, a disease state like a rage virus is altogether plausible. Several existing diseases have a stage that closely resembles a rage virus. You might be familiar with the idea of animals with Rabies, but humans also have a stage where agitation, aggression and even biting are common and dangerous.
I-Robot – The world of autonomous robotics has come a long way in a short period of time. Just since the release of i-robot, the capacity of robots to work without direct programming by humans has skyrocketed. Robots may not have reached the crisis of conscience that Sonny the robot suffers in the movie, but they have already reached a point where they can process information, calculate and react faster than their creators in some cases.
Gravity was a gripping space thriller where two astronauts are tethered together but cast loose from everything else. Although thankfully, no such horrendous situation has taken place, astronauts did undertake spacewalks in similar circumstances in an earlier era of space exploration. NASA used manned maneuvering units which were completely separated from their spacecraft through the 1980s.
Minority Report was incredible when it came out, because it was a great film and because it was an unbelievable story. In the nearly two decades since the milestone movie came out, with sophisticated crime prediction software now in use by most large city police forces we are now edging closer and closer to the preemptive policing that minority report uses to pose the question of exactly when a person becomes guilty of a crime.
Gattaca, the on-screen story of a society genetically selected to ‘perfection’ is already well on its way to becoming real. Some parents are already choosing to pay hefty sums to edit out the possibility of their child having conditions like Huntington’s or select for sex. More genetic editing of embryos is technically scientifically possible, but further advances pose big moral questions for us as a species and a society.
Contact is a story about potential contact with extraterrestrial life by scientists searching in the night sky. Written by Carl Sagan, a popular science documentary maker and astrophysicist himself. The internal logic of the film is consistent and the references to events in space are theoretically sound. SETI, a team shown in the movie, working to study the night sky and send messages to any potential alien life who is also a real body and is working to this day.
Contagion, released in 2011, shows a fictional pandemic taking hold of the world. Not only have there clearly been other pandemics before which threaten law and order, food supplies and damage human life on a large scale but the virus itself resembles the very real Nipah virus. Spread readily from person to person, likely to thrive in areas of high population density and patchy sanitation and with no known cure.