Released on May 3, 2002, a film starring Alec Baldwin as President Benjamin Strong, and Kevin Spacey as Republican Speaker of the House Newell Shadwell. This was the second in a series of movies known as the “Tolerance Trilogy.”
The film centers around President Strong – “the man who cares” – and his struggle to provide security to the United States after anti-government terrorist bomb a hospital in Pennsylvania. When receiving news that international terrorists plan to strike US targets across the globe, Strong realizes he can not fight terrorism on two fronts and sets about on a bold initiative – negotiate with terrorist organizations.
Strong’s plan is met with overwhelming opposition by Speaker Shadwell, who states that National Security is part of his party’s “Contract with the United States.” Strong ignores Shadwell’s opposition and flies to Yemen to meet with terrorist leader Achmed al-Sheik. During his meeting, al-Sheik agrees to end attacks against the West if the United States will withdraw forces from places that threaten “people of peace” (Muslims) and end their support for Israel.
On the flight back to the United States, Strong lays out his vision to his Cabinet from Air Force One. Strong calls for a 50% cut in the size of the military, and funneling that savings into environmental and social programs at home. Additionally, Strong ends all future military deployments beyond 500 nautical miles of US borders, unless approved by the United Nations. Strong also says that the US will end its support to Israel, and call for equal footing for the Palestinians in the World Community.
President Strong then moves to promote his vision in the media, but is confronted by Shadwell at his appearances. Privately, Strong meets with media moguls and asks for a break to promote his cause. The network CEOs declare that “we are only trying to be fair and balanced” and need to have equal time. President Strong threatens to “give them fair and balanced” and imposes the Fairness Doctrine on the media, finally declaring that all TV networks are “properly balanced.”
Able to speak to the people, Strong then makes the case for his vision. FBI investigations later determine that Shadwell is behind the domestic terrorist attacks and did so in order to strengthen the resolve of the American people to fight terrorism, as “one day, it’s going to happen here!” Strong responds that indeed it might, but understanding adversaries to the United States, rather than confronting them, will lead to peace and safety. Strong orders all US troops from foreign soil, cuts the Department of Defense by 50%, and places operational control of US forces under the UN. Al-Sheik later releases a video stating that the West is truly committed to peace, and promises to end terrorism against the United States. The film ends 20 years later with Israeli and Palestinian children playing near a monument to Strong in Jerusalem, while newscasters in the background discuss plans for the 10th Anniversary of the United Nations declaration of peace in the Middle East.
Despite pre-release praises from the media and film critics, the movie failed miserably and was the victim of unfortunate timing, coming two days after the May Day attacks. Harvey Weinstein mulled pulling the film from distribution, but Miramax films had invested a considerable amount of money into developing Man with a Vision and decided to release the film as scheduled. Total 2002 revenue for the film was just over $5,000,000.