If you told someone in 2013 that a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco would set off international violence, they probably wouldn’t believe you. But in 2014, that prospect doesn’t seem nearly as ridiculous. The movie in question – The Interview – features the comedy superstars as journalists asked by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un under the pretense of an interview with the dictator. From the time of its initial announcement, North Korea has engaged in some of their worst saber-rattling in years.
In June, the North Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement condemning the movie. “If the United States administration tacitly approves or supports the release of this film, we will take a decisive and merciless countermeasure,” said a North Korean spokesman. “The enemies have gone beyond the tolerance limit in their despicable moves to dare hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership.”
Big Talk From a Small Country
For most Americans, this amounted to little more than another round of tough talk from a country that has made impotent bluster their favorite form of communication. While there have been concerns in recent years about the extent of the country’s nuclear capabilities, there has been little definitive proof that they have the bomb. As recently as 2013, the country announced a successful underground nuclear test. While the test registered on earthquake-detection surveys, investigators later said it had not been accompanied by an expected rise in radiation levels. Was North Korea really getting close to becoming a nuclear superpower, or was this just more trickery from the most secretive government in the world?
The jury is still out when it comes to North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, but, as Sony Pictures just found out, there are more ways than one to launch an attack. While there is no hard evidence linking the enormous Sony hack to North Korea’s government, the stated aims behind the attack certainly point to Kim Jong-un and company. And though the hack has caused immeasurable damage to Sony Pictures, their relationships in Hollywood, and their reputation, the group behind the hacks – Guardians of Peace – now claim there is violent trouble on the horizon.
The hackers released a statement this week that included a barely-veiled threat of terrorism: “The world will be full of fear,” said the message. “Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.) Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.” The message is directed at cinemas that feature The Interview, “including the premiere.”
So far, only southern movie chain Carmike Cinemas has heeded the warning, announcing in the wake of the message that they would be canceling the Christmas Day release of the film. For their part, Sony has advised theaters that they are free to make their own decisions when it comes to exhibiting the movie. Additionally, it was reported that stars Rogen and Franco would be canceling the rest of their promotional appearances.
Officials at the Department of Homeland Security have said there is no credible evidence that such an attack is in the works.