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Film / The Numbers Station

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The Numbers Station is a thriller released in 2013, directed by Kasper Barfoed and written by F Scott Frazier.

Disgraced CIA operative Emerson Kent (John Cusack) is sent to a numbers station in England to guard Katherine (Malin Åkerman), who is one of the operators. Their first shifts together pass off without incident, but then a group of conspirators try to take over the station to send out a message of their own choice …

Tropes in this film:

  • Bluff the Impostor: After learning that the station's one-way operator has also been compromised, Emerson confirms it by phoning them and getting the Trust Password slightly wrong on purpose.
    Operator: Hello?
    Emerson: That wasn't the right password.
    Operator: What?
    Emerson: That wasn't the right password.
    Operator: Tell me you killed the girl before you figured that out.
    [Emerson hangs up]
  • Everyone Owns a Mac: Some Apple hardware is prominently displayed down in the bowels of the numbers station. However, when we see the screens they have a custom GUI, and an inserted memory card is seen to have a file path beginning at "C:", in the Windows style.
  • Hollywood Encryption: Emerson explains how the code used by the station works (one-time code pads are used on each transmission) when Katherine tells him that they need to break the code. As explained, it's flat-out impossible, and they need to figure out how to break into the mission log so they can seek the counter-order instead.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Zig-zagged. Emerson and Katherine are both shot towards the end of the film (with pistols, at close range), and he is able to drive them both to hospital. Everybody else drops dead.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: There is no romance between Emerson and Katherine, who are a radio operator and a spook who have only recently met. The two operators on the other shift, however, are hugging and kissing at the very least, but this isn't their story.
  • Numbers Stations: But of course!
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Emerson Kent is reassigned to a numbers station in Suffolk, England for refusing to kill the daughter of a witness during a botched assignment.