Director Roger Christian was about to make a movie on people who disarm bombs for a living when the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed in a massive explosion last April 19.
As Christian watched television coverage of the carnage in America's heartland, he faced an agonizing question: Would his film about bombings on American soil now appear insensitive in light of the blast, which killed 169 people, including children?
"We didn't want to be seen as exploiting something," the British-born filmmaker said recently.
His producers at Malibu-based Keystone Pictures agreed. "I didn't want to make a movie about other people's tragic deaths," said Keystone President Robert Vince.
The result is a movie called "The Final Cut," a story about the unsung heroes who defuse explosive devices: the bomb cutters.
"Our film is not a raging action film with bombs going off all over the place," Christian said. "No innocents are killed in our film, only people in the line of duty."
Keystone, which has kept the foreign distribution rights, has begun screening the film overseas. Republic Entertainment Inc. (formerly Republic Pictures) acquired the North American rights and plans to make the film part of its re-emergence into the U.S. theatrical market early next year.
In some respects, "The Final Cut" is an unsettling movie to watch.
In the opening scene, two members of Seattle's crack bomb disposal unit methodically dismantle a sophisticated explosive device as the seconds tick down.
Believing they have disarmed the bomb, the man and woman breathe sighs of relief--until the bomb suddenly begins ticking again. To their horror, they realize the bomber has tricked them.
The resulting explosion sets the stage for the drama to come.
W ritten by Raul Inglis, from a story by Crash Leyland, the movie stars Sam Elliott as John Pierce, once the best bomb man on the Seattle squad, who is haunted by the death of his partner. Pierce initially refuses to aid his one-time comrades in a desperate search for a bomber who is ravaging the squad, but then realizes that the bomber's main objective is to go mano a mano with him.
With the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the handiwork of the mysterious Unabomber and, most recently, Oklahoma City, America has come face-to-face with the kind of terrorism that Europe has dealt with for years.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, between 1990 and 1994 there were 8,567 explosive bombings in the United States and another 1,959 attempted bombings.
The ATF also reports that during the same period, 306 people were killed by bombs and 3,402 were injured and property damage amounted to more than $1.1 billion. That does not include Oklahoma City.
Director Christian recalled being in London waiting to film "The Final Cut" when a news event occurred that got him thinking about why people put their lives on the line to dismantle bombs.
"I was at my father's and on the news they showed how they had cleared a complete village in the south of England after they found an enormous bomb from the war," the director said.
"There was this army guy walking in there, and they kept showing long shots of him quietly defusing the bomb, then going back and having a cigarette and a cup of tea, and then going in again. I kept thinking, 'What is this about? Why do they do it? What is it in their psyche that makes them do it?' "
Christian said he came to the conclusion that bomb cutters feel "a kind of overwhelming responsibility to society."
"It's like firemen and police officers," he said. "It comes with the job."