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Deceiver (1997) Movie Analysis

Deceiver is a movie centered around a police cross-examination room where Wayland (Tim Roth) is subjected to a lie detector test in line with the murder of a local prostitute. Wayland stars as the son of a textile manufacturer and a Princeton who is currently unemployed. Wayland knew the dead prostitute named Elizabeth since he was her customer. Roth is brought in by two police officers Braxton and Charleston, for questioning (Pate, 1997).

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The method used by the two policemen seems crude since they intend to make sure that Roth fails the test through hints that he is doing not so well and intimidation. Roth responds with the self-assurance and cockiness of a person that believes he is not a suspect and by taunting the police officers through the use of information concerning their private lives (Pate, 1997). While the lie detector, when used correctly, can help determine when a person is lying, Charleston and Braxton try to manipulate the process so that Roth can fail the test.

At the beginning of the test, everything seems to be going smoothly. Braxton goes to the extent of ensuring that Wayland is comfortable by advising him to take a second to clear his thoughts. Braxton also ensures that his colleague Charleston does not cause any discomfort to Wayland, and he starts the test when the suspect’s breathing has stabilized (Pate, 1997). After the first test is done, Braxton indicates that Wayland is not entirely settled, and there are some inconsistencies in the results attained in the first examination.

The scientists in the movie do not attain sound results from the test they conduct on Wayland as they investigate the murder incident. Polygraphs only examine blood pressure or heart rate, skin conductivity, and respiration. Wayland knows precisely what the polygraph measures based on how he behaves during the process (Pate, 1997). At first, he is directed on how the test would be conducted by answering the questions asked using two options (yes or no) without adding anything else. In act 3:26-3:35, when Braxton asks him if he is known to his friends as James Walter Wayland, he tries to confuse the polygraph by stating they mostly call him Wayland (Pate, 1997).

Moreover, in act 4:01-4:11, when he is asked if, when recording his statement, he told the truth, instead of answering yes, he answers “yes, I did” to mislead the machine (Pate, 1997). Another incident where Wayland successfully manages to confuse the polygraph is in acts 13:40-13:55, where he starts coughing uncontrollably (Pate, 1997). These factors alter how the machine is supposed to work, giving frail findings.

Another incident that makes the results unreasonable is when Wayland tries to psychologically exploit the examiner by asking him whether or not he considers himself intelligent. Roth asks him why he thinks himself wise while not insightful and adds that he failed to graduate from a community college (Pate, 1997). Moreover, Roth gives some money to Braxton as a tip which, from a psychological perspective, undermines him, and it works since he decides to stop interrogating him. Charleston takes over and tries to intimidate him by telling him a story of how he once had a guy whose crime was not that serious and ended up behind bars after failing several tests (Pate, 1997). The story’s primary purpose is to make Braxton nervous and consequently make him fail the test.

Additional evidence that the results are not valid is how Roth plays mind games with the two detectives. In acts 54:40-55:15, where they try to manipulate him into revealing the arguments he had with his father, Roth turns against them by indicating that he knows about their dirty secrets (Pate, 1997). He states that he is well aware that Braxton has a gambling problem. In act 24:13- 27:00, Wayland reveals how Charleston has cheated on his wife with multiple women for many years (Pate, 1997). Wayland revealing his information about his interrogators puts them off balance and cannot carry out the examination effectively.

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In addition, all through the questioning, Wayland denies that he knows Elizabeth. He argues that they only met once and exchanged numbers, but that is not the case. Apart from Wayland being her customer, they are good friends who hand out occasionally (Pate, 1997). At one point, Wayland invites her to a black-tie family party and introduces her to his parents. In act 1:06:21-1:07:06, Elizabeth reminds Roth of when they were at his family party when he started laughing disorderly (Pate, 1997). She states that she has never seen Roth in that state, indicating that they have known each other for a long time (Pate, 1997). The detectives believed his story of not knowing her is proof that he managed to trick the polygraph and thus interfere with the results.

Polygraph tests are good indicators of a person lying, but they can be manipulated easily. Throughout the film Deceiver, Roth interferes with the examination results by playing tricks on the machine. Moreover, Roth and Elizabeth are close friends throughout the movie, but Wayland claims he did not know her during the investigations. The machine cannot detect that he is lying, and thus the detectives end up believing him. In conclusion, Roth plays mind games with the detectives by revealing their dirty secrets, making them ineffective in the way they conduct the tests proving the results are not logical.

Reference

Pate, J. (Director). (1997). Deceiver [Film]. MDP Worldwide.

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