I set out to write Threat Intelligence and Strike Matrix as technothrillers in the truest sense, in that they combine the elements of both a geopolitical thriller with speculative near-future technological developments.
With the release of Strike Matrix on 12 November 2019, I thought I’d share five films from both genres that heavily influenced both books.
WARNING: potential spoilers in this article if you haven’t yet read Threat Intelligence.
This was the first thriller-action film set in Africa that I felt did justice to the continent and the people there. Set during the Sierra Leone War of the 1990s and early 2000s, it structures the plot around three characters, a mercenary, a journalist and a fisherman who all get caught up in the brutal diamond wars.
The characters are well-rounded and believable, the action is taunt and intense, and the plot never has a dull moment while educating on the plight of African nations corrupted by a wealth of natural resources: oil, gold, diamonds, and so forth.
Africa is a favorite location for my thriller novels, and Blood Diamond showed me how this setting could be presented. I particularly liked the story structure with three separate characters following different paths to resolve their shared plights, and adapted this strategy with Threat Intelligence and Strike Matrix.
This was the movie that made me realized a great technothriller at its heart has a single speculative idea while the rest of the story is in a world that is familiar. In Inception that idea was the ability to enter people’s dreams to steal secrets and influence people’s subconscious behavior. Director Christopher Nolan delved deep into this idea and created many visual and intellectual concepts that explored this idea to the extreme.
Inception is a thriller heist movie with elements of espionage fiction. You can see Nolan’s James Bond film influences with some scenes, particularly the ski chases from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
In my books, my single technological idea was sentient artificial intelligence and how that one change could alter so many aspects of our world and our reality. Like Nolan, I tried to follow the concept to as many logical conclusions as I could imagine, and structured my story in the same layer-building of Inception, revealing the mystery over the course of the story.
The Bourne Identity
One of my all-time favorite espionage films is The Bourne Identity, because of its realism, the inventiveness of the Jason Bourne assassin character, and the themes of one man and one woman on the run from multiple authorities trying to kill him.
Initially, I didn’t like the film as it missed so much of the plot from the Robert Ludlum novels, but later I came to appreciate that thematically the movie was spot-on, and the characters were true to their source.
The Bourne Supremacy that followed was equally good and its partial setting in India influenced the use of this a major location in my books. Later films unfortunately departed down the self-destructive path of repeating the same plot.
The Bourne Identity also influenced the story arc taken by Simon Ashcroft and Casey Irvine, as they race across Kenya and India together, avoiding the authorities and other armed groups intent on killing them.
The ultimate film about artificial intelligence and the uncertain futures humanity faces once we create a being that is far smarter than we are.
The Matrix and the excellent films that followed it, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, while also being some of the best action films ever made (the car chase on the freeway in the second film is brilliant), also showed how reality is quickly distorted and manipulated when we aren’t the smartest species on the block.
With Threat Intelligence and Strike Matrix, I aimed for an AI story that was as realistic as I could portray it, while still giving the humans something to do while god-like being ruled over them. Much the same way the Matrix Trilogy did.
Mission Impossible: Fallout
While this film came out after I’d released Threat Intelligence (back then it was The Benevolent Deception), this was the Mission Impossible film that really made me sit up and take notice of the franchise.
I’d enjoyed all the previous movies, but this one somehow felt elevated. Perhaps it was the incredible use of scenery, the inventive, intense action sequences particularly the helicopter chase and HALO jump, the twisting plot and bad guys who were scarily competent fighters.
Mission Impossible: Fallout inspired me to keep building the intensity of my action sequences when they happened and never let up. This film particularly influenced the Strike Matrix chase through Mumbai streets, rail yards and slums.