Hollywood stars have criticised Sony's plans to cancel the release of The Interview, a satirical film about an assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, after threats from hackers led many major US cinemas to abandon plans to screen of the film.
A Sony spokesman said the company was "deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company." But a number of actors and directors condemned the studio's decision.
Actor Rob Lowe said on Twitter: "Hollywood has done Neville Chamberlain proud today. Wow. It wasn't the hackers who won, it was the terrorists and almost certainly the North Korean dictatorship, this was an act of war."
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Actor and director Ben Stiller called the move "a threat to freedom of expression."
Zach Braff said that the decision set a "horrible precedent."
Comedian Jimmy Kimmel called Sony’s withdrawal an "act of cowardice".
Hackers mounted a huge attack on Sony's computer networks last week, leaking private emails and uploading digital copies of other unreleased films to the internet.
US investigators now say that the attack was undertaken by hackers working on behalf of the North Korean government, NBC reports. "We have found linkage to the North Korean government," a US government spokesman said.
A group of hackers calling themselves Guardians of Peace issued a warning this week in which they mentioned the 9/11 attacks, claiming "the world will be full of fear".
"Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time," the group wrote.
The US Department of Homeland Security said yesterday that there was "no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters", Politico reports.
The White House National Security Council said in a statement that "the US government is working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice. The United States respects artists' and entertainers' right to produce and distribute content of their choosing… We take very seriously any attempt to threaten or limit artists' freedom of speech or of expression."
But according to CNN there is a "sad irony" in the fact that "one of the great tests of America's freedom of speech should involve a movie that, according to some reviewers, utterly sucks".
Variety describes The Interview as an "alleged satire that's about as funny as a communist food shortage, and just as protracted."
The main problem with the film, Variety says, is that it fails to say anything political or even interesting. "The hype around The Interview suggests a take-no-prisoners dirty bomb of a movie, but the reality is more like a deflated whoopee cushion."
Jordan Hoffman's review of the film in The Guardian's is rather more positive. He describes The Interview as "stoned and anally fixated" but also funny.
Hoffman admits he is mystified as to why this picture should have "brought Hollywood to its knees". But, given the film's subject matter, there is a "degree of beauty" to it, he says. "If this unessential but agreeable movie really triggered an international response, this is life reflecting art in a major way".
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