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Echelon Conspiracy

Promotional film poster
Directed by Greg Marcks
Produced by Alexander Leyviman
Steve Richards
Roee Sharon
Jonathan Tzachor
Written by Kevin Elders
Michael Nitsberg
Starring Shane West
Edward Burns
Ving Rhames
Jonathan Pryce
and Martin Sheen
Music by Bobby Tahouri
Cinematography Lorenzo Senatore
Editing by Joseph Gutowski
James Herbert
Distributed by After Dark Films
Release date(s) February 27, 2009
Running time 105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Gross revenue $2,053,764 (worldwide)[1]

Echelon Conspiracy (formerly titled The Gift) is a 2009 action thriller film directed by Greg Marcks and starring Shane West, Edward Burns, and Ving Rhames.



A young American computer engineer (Shane West as Max Petersen) acquires a mobile phone that receives strange text messages. First they encourage him to miss his flight which he then learns crashed soon after takeoff. Then the messages direct him to buy a certain stock, which he then learns increases by 313%. Next, he is directed to a hotel/casino in Prague to gamble. He first wins one-hundred thousand Euros on a slot machine and then bets the entire amount on a hand of blackjack, getting 21. Both bets are made on the basis of further text messages he receives on his new phone. Max then has an altercation with a beautiful woman (Tamara Feldman) and her jealous boyfriend in the hotel corridor, where he is knocked-out and his mysterious phone is apparently scanned. Max wakes up with the woman, Kamila, smiling above him. He immediately asks her out for a drink.

To further his new-found career in gambling, Max enlists the aid of a Russian cabbie/apparent e-gadget enthusiast, Yuri (Sergey Gubanov), who outfits him with an earpiece to wirelessly receive his anonymous and lucrative text messages. His lucky streak continues when he hits the 3 million Euros jackpot on a slot machine but is forced to run away when casino security led by John Reed (Edward Burns) attempts to detain him. This chase is ended by the intervention of FBI Agent Dave Grant (Ving Rhames) who handcuffs Max and interrogates him for information about the phone. Max is frightened, but unable to provide any information.

At this point Agent Grant contacts Raymond Burke (Martin Sheen) of the NSA, who is apparently monitoring Max because he is receiving messages from an omniscient communication surveillance computer system known as Echelon. These messages have been responsible for the deaths of several Americans, most recently an IT specialist working in the Pentagon. Burke recently lost a battle to pass a bill in Congress that would allow Echelon to be upgraded by being uploaded into personal computers worldwide. Burke eventually decides that Max knows too much and must be eliminated, however, Reed and the beautiful woman from the hotel – now revealed as Reed's associate – come to Max's aid and spirit him away to Moscow. There Max re-connects with the techie Yuri and tries to get his help in discovering who is sending the messages. Yuri believes that the messages are coming directly from the computer itself, and that the system has achieved some kind of autonomous self-awareness. Max and Reed object to his idea, but they are forced to flee when more armed men arrive at Yuri's apartment. A Moscow car chase ensues.

The chase ends with Reed outmaneuvering and eventually blowing-up the chase cars, which happen to be led by Agent Grant. Grant escapes injury, but Max seizes the moment to inflict some payback for their previous encounter. Grant asks Max to help him stop Echelon, as he has now also begun to receive threatening texts. Max then receives another text, instructing him to return to Omaha, Nebraska, where he first worked as a computer security engineer. Max, Grant and Reed all fly home on a military aircraft.

Arriving in Omaha, the group finds a sealed-up, bunker-like structure with a cache of servers and a high-end computer system that Max helped install years earlier. The property is revealed to belong to another victim of Echelon's messages, the same person whose credit card was used to send Max the phone. Max starts up the bunker's computer and is instructed via text to fire up the servers and connect them to the network. Echelon then begins downloading itself into the bunker's computers and begins a countdown to replicate itself across the world wide computer network. Agent Grant calls Burke at the NSA to inform him, but Burke is content to let the Echelon replicate itself worldwide, in the interests of US national security. Grant and Reed break ranks with Burke at this point and Burke sends back other FBI agents to detain them. Meanwhile, Max is failing to stop Echelon's replication countdown, until he takes an idea from the 1980s film WarGames. Max asks the computer what its primary purpose is and it replies to defend the US, as defined by the Constitution. Max then asks the computer to search for threats to the US Constitution, and it comes back with a plethora of articles concerning the recent attempts to secure Congressional approval to upgrade Echelon, which is characterized as a grave threat to personal freedoms. At the point when the download is complete, Echelon "learns" that it is itself the threat and self-destructs.

The film ends with Agent Grant and Reed sending Max and Kamila off to Paris, while Burke is subpoenaed to appear before the Senate intelligence committee. The final cryptic scene is back in Moscow, where the techie Yuri is unveiled as a Captain in the Russian Security Service. In a conversation (in Russian) with his apparent commanding officer he is commended for his actions. Yuri replies that they will soon try to start it again but, for today, they have helped the Americans to make the right decision; "I would like to believe", he adds cryptically, and at that moment hangs up his mobile phone.


See also


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