A Watchful Eye: Surveillance in Movies

In the spirit of the Oscars this year, SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION has decided to give out its own feature film awards. Instead of trekking down to a remote theater on Hollywood Boulevard to search out the movies nominated for Best Foreign Language film, we wanted to bring the awards home.

We dug into our DVD library for the best video surveillance scenes Hollywood has to offer. After getting comfortable on our leather couch and firing up the flat-panel (HD, of course) television, we searched out the most memorable surveillance scenes in movies.

We’ve prepared a list, but we like a good conversation as much as a good popcorn thriller, so we’d like to hear from you. Please post below or E-mail SSI Web Editor Paul Clinton (paul.clinton@bobit.com) with your favorite movies and scenes, and tell us what made them memorable for you. We will post a sampling of your responses after the Academy Awards show.

Here are our picks (in alphabetical order):

“The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007): All three Jason Bourne movies have a memorable surveillance sequence — how about the embassy sequence in “The Bourne Identity”? — but we like the tactical pursuit in the third installment in a London train terminal when p/t/z cameras point toward Bourne (Matt Damon), and the government official heading the operation says, “Give me all of CCTV’s eyes.”

“Enemy of the State” (1998): The tagline tells you all you need to know about this dark, D.C. thriller starring Will Smith, “It’s not paranoia if they really are after you.” The Hollywood espionage thrillers usually have a sequence where the tech geeks pull a nifty trick out of their hat. In this clip, they identify a package switch using frame-by-frame video analysis.

“Minority Report” (2002): This sci-fi film based on author Philip Dick’s short story introduced the concept of “pre-crime,” where you can be prosecuted for a crime you have yet to commit. Tom Cruise, a police detective, watches future evidence arrive about his crime on a monitoring station in the detective bureau, before going on the run from pursuing officers.

“Ocean’s Eleven” (2001): Planning a heist to beat the surveillance system of a Las Vegas casino may sound like madness, but how about planning three heists to beat three systems at three Las Vegas casinos? When you have Brad Pitt, George Clooney AND Matt Damon, well now maybe that doesn’t sound so outlandish. One of movie’s great scenes involves Pitt and Clooney visiting a security expert (played by Eliot Gould), who tells them their plan is impossible.

“P2” (2007): We’re not sure how many people saw this creepy set-piece thriller involving a monitoring guard who traps a young woman in a parking structure and torments her with, among other things, Elvis Presley music.

“Panic Room” (2002): Jody Foster and her daughter become prisoners in their own house, as three criminals menace them from outside a panic room. In this clip, the criminals learn the difference between an intercom and P.A. system, as Foster watches them on a bank of monitors. They flash cards with messages to communicate with her.

“Snake Eyes” (1998): A slick, corrupt Atlantic City detective (Nicolas Cage) gets a wake-up call, when he becomes embroiled in a murder investigation that was caught on surveillance cameras. The more he watches, the more he learns just who should be responsible for a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels.

“Truman Show” (1998): A happy-go-lucky Jim Carrey slowly begins to realize that his entire life is a show and he’s being watched by millions of fans. The movie has a lot to say about “reality television,” and the eventual loss of innocence of the participants. And the trailer shows the 5,000 cameras recording his every move.

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Security Sales & Integration. Well-versed in the technical and business aspects of electronic security (video surveillance, access control, systems integration, intrusion detection, fire/life safety), Goldfine is nationally recognized as an industry expert and speaker. Goldfine is involved in several security events and organizations, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), ASIS Int'l and more. Goldfine also serves on several boards, including the SIA Marketing Committee, CSAA Marketing and Communications Committee, PSA Cybersecurity Advisory Council and Robolliance. He is a certified alarm technician, former cable-TV tech, audio company entrepreneur, and lifelong electronics and computers enthusiast. Goldfine joined Security Sales & Integration in 1998.

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