Movie Review: Look

Look isn’t a film about business…seeing the business ethics issues here requires extrapolation, but it’s not much of a stretch.

If Look had been made 20 years ago, it would have fallen into the category of “Futuristic Dystopian” films: it portrays a society in which seemingly one’s every move — walking down the sidewalk, changing in a clothing store change-room, sitting on the couch in a middle-class condo — is seen, recorded, monitored. But in point of fact the film is set in the present day. As the movie reminds us, “the average American is captured on surveillance camera more than 200 times a day.” Dystopian realism?

Look, written and directed by Adam Rifkin, is filmed more-or-less entirely from the point of view of various surveillance and security cameras. (Cinetmatically, it’s sort of Sliver meets Crash…everyone is seen on closed-circuit video, and eventually half a dozen disparate story threads weave themselves together). The dramatic tension of the movie comes from the fact that, during the course of the film, we witness murder, child abduction, theft, statutory rape, and a number of less serious offenses, all through the lens of what are ostensibly surveillance cameras.

So here’s the business ethics angle. About half the video footage that makes up the story of Look is shot by cameras at public institutions (schools, police stations, public transit); but the other half is shot by cameras located at and owned by private businesses (shopping malls, department stores, Quickee marts, etc.). The implication (though not one explored in the film) is that a vast quantity of video information is in the hands of private companies. This of course raises a whole host of business ethics issues. It raises questions about the appropriate limits on surveillance (covert and otherwise) in commercial settings, as well as questions about what may ethically be done with the fruits of such surveillance.
I’ll simply enumerate some of the headings under which we might organize such questions. Each of these topics is, of course, the subject of a considerable literature:

1) Surveillance of employees.

2) Surveillance of customers.

3) Role of private surveillance in public security.

IMDB’s page for Look
Note: I was offered and accepted a free copy of Look on DVD to discuss on this blog.

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