Adam from Themes and Memes is our guest to talk about the 2015 action comedy American Ultra. We start by trying to define this film, which is an intense mixture of cartoonish ultra violence, CIA covert operations, romance, comedy and horror, looking at the dissociating nature of this blend. The intentions of screenwriter Max Landis and the director Nima Nourizadeh are discussed and we ask whether they were reaching out to the CIA or trying to flatter them by making MKULTRA seem cool to stoners and young people. We go on to look at the prominence of female and often maternal characters in modern spy fiction, particular in CIA-assisted productions and ask what difference this makes to how these films and TV shows portray the CIA as a whole.
We also examine a bizarre weed-based marketing campaign for the film at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con and ask whether like the Pentagon and NASA, the CIA now sees Comic-Con as a key networking and recruitment opportunity. The conversation rounds ofs discussing the director Nima Nourizadeh’s father Ali Reza, who bears all the hallmarks of being a CIA asset (complete with mysterious name changes and working for Voice of America). The presence of footage of Langley and the prominent use of the CIA logo suggests that at the least the CIA were aware of American Ultra and approved use of these for the film, so we ask whether they were involved in the making of the film and if so, why.