Longtime readers know that I sometimes fill this space with ideas for film/video projects. This is just such a summary treatment for a film called BUNKER.
BUNKER: A comedy about a White House reporter stuck in the President’s bunker after a nuclear Armaggeddon.
At a White House press briefing, our heroine, a confident black woman named AVA, asks probing questions about the worsening North Korea situation. She gets platitudes, not answers, from the heavy-set white woman at the podium, who is named SARAH.
Ava leaves the gilded room, AIR RAID SIRENS. Everyone’s phone is blaring. Nuclear missiles are headed to Washington D.C.
Ava walks in a daze along the halls of the Old Executive Office Building. She sees people having sex in closets. She sees people annoyed that their phones are buzzing while they try to watch porn, or play video games.
Ava tries to call her parents; no answer. She leaves voice mails and texts.
Ava hears the words “bunker” on the lips of half the people who pass her. She sees a white guy down the hall yelling “Just tell me where the goddamn bunker is!!”
Ava is leaving the building – literally she’s right on the threshold of outside-inside – when Sarah approaches her. Sarah explains that Ava has been chosen, and it’s time to come with her now.
Sarah leads Ava to a certain bookcase. Sarah slightly moves a book, almost Scooby-Doo-like, and the bookcase opens, leading to a hidden staircase that takes them one flight down.
Ava walks with Sarah through a few secret passages (think: retina scans) and eventually an elevator that goes a long, long way down.
When she arrives in the bunker, she walks into a room that’s not unlike a HOTEL LOBBY, except there are no windows. Instead, TV screens show the worst possible thing: THE END OF THE WORLD.
Ava can’t believe what she’s seeing, missiles and nuclear bombs destroying every American city, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C…everywhere.
Other people are in the “hotel lobby,” just as distraught as Ava.
After a few minutes, Sarah comes to get Ava again. Sarah says that the President wants to see Ava. Ava can barely believe it. But she stammers yes.
After going through several bunker-like passages, she finally arrives at a plush, palatial space. She sees PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP. He’s waiting for her; everyone else hushes up.
Trump seems oddly happy, for someone who presumably just watched 95% of Americans burn to a crisp. Naturally, Ava asks about this. Trump’s answer makes it sound like he launched a nuclear first-strike either because he wanted to prove her (Ava) wrong about a column she wrote challenging his masculinity, or because he’s been itching to do this all along.
As Ava questions him, the second explanation begins to make more sense: promises that cannot possibly be kept, ignoring bipartisan solutions, ignoring diplomacy, ignoring climate change, ignoring tax and health plans, ignoring almost anything that could count as a long-term strategy. But then, she asks, why have the 2020 rallies?
Trump says he had to determine who would share the bunker with him. He saw the bunker in November 2016 and knew he had to have it, but he also wanted to be sure he could lord over everyone in it like a scientist lording it over bacteria.
But then, what about me? Ava thinks and accidentally asks.
Trump says, oh, you’ll see.
Ava returns to the hotel lobby. Most of the people there are happily discussing logistics: when and where to eat, where to sleep, where to use the facilities, new protocols.
A white woman named ESTHER approaches Ava and tells Ava that she always liked her on TV.
Ava is thunderstruck, not just by everything, but also that Esther and everyone else is acting so chipper. Didn’t they just watch most of America get nuked?
Oh, I don’t know about most, Esther says. Those were liberal cities, she says.
Besides, Esther says, North Korea couldn’t have had that many nukes.
Ava patiently explains that China just nuked America (and America nuked China). China had long ago promised to retaliate against an American first-strike against North Korea.
Esther says, oh well. Even China probably didn’t have enough nukes that could get through our defenses and destroy all of America.
Ava explains that the radiation will get to the heartland and the South.
Esther says that the people in those states would have had plenty of time to get into their own bunkers. At least the ones that are smart enough to have them.
Ava asks how many knew about this. Her reporter instincts kick in, and she almost accidentally gets out a small pad and pencil.
Esther says that those who needed to know, knew. Esther says she once saw Ava on CNN asking why Trump is so popular with evangelicals. Well, the rapture has come.
Ava notices that very few faces in the lobby, or anywhere she’s looked, are faces of persons of color.
For Ava, everything is clicking into place. And it’s all horrible.
Esther asks Ava who she thinks is more attractive: Donald, Don Jr., or Eric?
Ava says, uh, none?
Esther says, well, you’re going to have to decide at some point.
Days pass as Ava tries to keep her head low. She figures out her place, meaning where she’s meant to eat, sleep, use the bathroom. She tries to watch “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu, but no internet = no Hulu and no Netflix. She curses the fact that she doesn’t have a DVD player or any DVDs.
[To be written: vicissitudes of Handmaid’s Tale as a comedy? Is that possible?]
After a week, Ava escapes, gets up to the surface, preparing to die from the nuclear fallout…only to learn that everything up top is peachy-keen.
America actually wasn’t destroyed by nukes.
Ava checks her phone. Her parents have texted back to the effect of “we’re fine, honey, how are you?”
Ava calls them; no answer. She texts back: “Uh…I’m fine. What are you guys up to today?”
After a few minutes, Ava’s mom texts back with “errands, shopping, making my special biscuits for the church social tomorrow”
Ava is like: WTF? Did I dream all of that? It can’t be a dream, can it? Have I fallen into some alternate reality?
She goes home to her Dupont Circle apartment; everything is where she left it, though a week certainly passed. She watches TV; all the usual. Trump is still President, all the usual sorts of agitation on CNN, et cetera. Ava texts her editor, who texts back, furious with her for going AWOL for a week.
Ava sees on TV that Sarah is giving the daily press conference. The reporters have all their usual concerns. It’s like the actual nuclear war never occurred; doesn’t make sense.
Ava thinks. No. No reporter could walk away from this story, and she doesn’t.
Ava goes to the White House. She walks by THAT bookcase. There’s a big marine standing next to it. Ava starts to reach for a book, but the marine gives her the kind of body language that indicates a firm “Don’t even try it.”
In the press-pool room at the White House, on the monitors, Ava sees the daily press conference happening without her. Usual questions.
Ava goes to a certain door, waits. The press conference ends and reporters stream out. Ava goes inside, chases down Sarah. Another marine waves her off, but Ava insists that this isn’t about politics. Finally they let her through.
Ava asks Sarah about the bunker. Sarah has no idea what she’s talking about – and Sarah is absolutely believable.
Ava is thunderstruck; it’s like she’s in a Twilight Zone episode.
Ava goes home, submits an interview request to JIM, the Secretary of Defense. She doesn’t get him, but she gets a man who works under him, RODRIGO.
In the interview, Ava peppers Rodrigo with questions about the bunker, about what she saw. She insists that she knows what’s going on and if she doesn’t get to speak to the Secretary, she’ll go public with what she knows.
Rodrigo sets up a meeting with Jim.
Ava meets with Jim. She tells him what she knows, and peppers him with questions.
Jim asks her to wait in his office for a few minutes.
He comes back with MIKE, the head of the CIA, and CHERYL, a woman who runs a tech company.
Jim, Mike, and Cheryl take turns explaining:
The roughly 3000 people down there in the bunker are real. 3000 robot simulations of them have taken their place up here in the “real world.”
Jim, Mike, and Cheryl did this, in their words, to save the Republic. If they had allowed Trump to continue on course, nuclear war would have broken out. Now their robot-Trump is slowly ratcheting down tensions with North Korea (and declaring victory, of course).
They swear Ava to secrecy. They tell Ava that she should treat this information the way she would treat information about a clandestine CIA operation. American lives are at stake. Potentially all American lives.
Ava says, what about my life? She says “you threw me to the wolves.”
War involves sacrifice, Jim says. He’s sorry. Trump wanted her there, so…
They are happy to keep the portal open for other escapees. Thanks to careful planning, they can see escapees on a monitor, but the real Trump and his below-ground people cannot.
Ava suggests they station a marine there at the portal, in case anyone else escapes, that person will need an immediate de-briefing. Jim, Mike, and Cheryl agree.
They explain that they have to keep a very tight lid on information, both above ground and below ground. They can’t let anyone in the bunker become suspicious, or Trump is likely to cause nuclear war.
But then, Ava asks, who is really running the country?
Jim explains that he, Jim, is running it, with help from Mike and Cheryl. They’re looking forward to the 2020 election, which they plan to do all they can to lose. After a new President takes the oath of office in 2021 or 2025, they’ll let everyone out of the bunker, into daylight and the trugh.
Ava remarks that Trump had already tried to lose the 2016 election. But more importantly, Jim Mike and Cheryl are violating the Constitution, says Ava.
Cheryl quotes Judge Robert Jackson: “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.”
Mike says that the CIA has done all sorts of horrible things in the name of American freedom.
Ava says that people will be assaulted and people will die down there, unnecessarily.
Ava asks: did any previous CIA actions directly contravene the Constitution like this?
Mike says yes. Often people are killed; at least almost everyone down there will live. As Trump’s puppets, Ava says. Mike says maybe not. Trump may in fact find that in such a situation, it’s not as easy to maintain a dictatorship as he may think.
Ava suggests that replacing a President with an impostor is crossing a new line, isn’t it?
They shrug. Ava feels the situation is, well, bunk.
Ava asks about Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference.
Jim says that they never replaced Trump’s lawyers with robots, and it turns out those lawyers are pretty good. Yes, according to the information they have, some of Trump’s people are going to jail, but as for Trump himself, it’s almost impossible to prove criminal collusion beyond what he already said publicly in summer 2016 when he asked for Russians to hack Hillary Clinton. Since people knew that and voted for him, the Republicans won’t impeach.
What about false information given to voters?
Cheryl says that just because her company (and others) distributed false information, that’s not the same as invalidating an election. People vote for all kinds of reasons.
Trump is still the duly elected President, Cheryl says.
Rest of story is about Ava dealing with the moral conundrum: to permit a criminal conspiracy against the Constitution, or put the pathological Trump back in office and potentially cause nuclear war?
[Not sure of ending]