In the 50s, a bunch of polite aliens came to lecture humanity on how stupid the Cold War was and how we shouldn’t have the hydrogen bomb. The most famous one is Klaatu from The Day the Earth Stood Still. Unlike Klaatu, the unnamed polite alien from The 27th Day has never been played by Keanu Reeves in a remake. I do agree that the Cold War was stupid and that death by nuclear destruction is less than ideal, however, these aliens are always so preachy about us having weapons of mass destruction while they have weapons that make nuclear fusion look like kid’s toys. It’s a bit the pot calling the kettle black.
The twist in The 27th Day is that the alien abducts five people, all from different countries (USA, Germany, UK, China and the USSR), and gives them a choice. The alien’s home planet is about to blow up, so its race needs a new planet. Earth is perfect for them, but if we radiate the hell out of it with hydrogen bombs, it will be inhabitable for anything. So, why not just kill just the humans and leave the planet alone?
The five people are each given a remote that controls a superweapon that will only kill humans. They each can destroy a good chunk of humanity and if they all use it, it’s the end of the species. They have 27 days to decide. If they don’t use the remotes, then the aliens will leave earth alone. To make things interesting, the alien puts the people back on earth and tells everyone who they are and what power they have over the future of humanity.
The Chinese person is a woman who commits suicide, the German is a scientist who gets run over by a car, the British person is another woman in a 1950s movie, so she just doesn’t know what to do but fly over to the USA and get with the American. In function, this great power is just in the hands of the USA and USSR. Also, the USSR is quite evil. This movie isn’t subtle.
The movie isn’t as smart as it thinks it is and if we strip it of the marginally interesting premise, then it’s just another 1950s sci-fi flick. Men in suits talking about politics, men in suits talking about dangers, men in white coats with laboratory things happening in the background talking about science sounding stuff, and a romance between a man in his fifties and a girl in her early twenties.
The end erases all redemptive qualities the premise possibly has.
Spoiler. The scientist discovers that he can use the remote to just kill all the Commies in the world and does and does so. No, really. That’s the end of the allegory about humans destroying themselves. Genocide.