Superheroes, unforgettable romances, natural catastrophes, myths, legends, great events in history… With a whole arsenal of great stories to tell, why should cinema stop at something apparently less vibrant for celluloid, such as logistics? However, there are quite a few films that, in one way or another, have also touched on the issue of transportation and the supply chain.

While there are few films that deal with the supply chain as their main subject, there are many that have logistics as a backdrop or deal with it in one way or another, and in many cases in surprising ways. From alternative action movies to cartoons through series, comedy and drama.

The mafia and drugs

Of all the themes, the world of the mafia and drugs has possibly been one of the most fertile when it comes to narrating worlds in which logistics are essential. The manufacturing processes, the transport of the drug, the importance of the distance between the origin and the destination, the fight for the distribution points, the brawls over which products to work with or avoid, or the fights between the mafia families have a clear echo. common problems in supply chains. Works like the Breaking Bad series, the Steven Soderbergh film Traffic, and the Godfather saga all contain these elements.

But if there is a work that gives a totally global idea of the logistics of drug trafficking, that is The Wire. The series dedicates each of its seasons to the relationship of the drug world with elements such as politics, education, unions and journalism, influencing that global character so typical of supply chains.

And despite being set in the suburbs of a complicated city like Baltimore, terms such as elasticity of demand, consumer desire, purchase decision delay, and marketing strategies appear in their dialogues.

Family and Christmas cinema

Does logistics have a place in the cinema created for the whole family? What could a movie like Home Alone have to do with the supply chain? Well, more than it seems. For starters, all of Macaulay Culkin’s problems begin when he misses a logistical link (in this case, a flight with his family); something that supply chain professionals know often leads to escalating problems, just like in the movie.

The rest of the tape is a sample of how the protagonist has to take charge of the entire house and defend it from some thieves who want to enter it. To achieve this he needs, in addition to acquiring supplies -in a scene in which he does so wanting to show maturity-, to be imaginative using the elements that he has within his reach against the invaders. So he will design traps with Christmas decorations and use the home DIY as if it were a real arsenal. For all logistics workers, innovation, adaptation, optimization in the use of resources and imagination to resolve conflicts are part of everyday life.

Logistics for lonely

The absence of logistics is also logistics. This is the case of the protagonists who remain isolated from the rest of the world. This is, for example, what happens to the character played by Tom Hanks in Castaway, in which after an accident he ends up alone on an island. In addition, his character works at a logistics company, and the film includes an eloquent speech he gives to his employees: “We live or die by the clock. We never turn our backs on it and we never allow ourselves the sin of losing track of time.” Although the film will give an ironic twist to this phrase by leaving him all the time in the world on his desert island, his condition as a castaway also speaks to us of the importance of being connected to the rest of the world, both personally and materially. In addition, he will have to use his imagination to take advantage of the remains of the shipwreck.

Even more extreme is the situation posed by the most recent Mars. In it, Matt Damon is left just as isolated, but much further from any help when he finds himself on the red planet. To save himself, he must be able to manage his very meager resources to procure food and survive, including making his own compost.

Logistics for the little ones

At first glance, it seems hard to imagine anything less appropriate than an animated film to deal with supply chain. However, Zootropolis is capable of turning concepts such as Lean and waste reduction into a game. In a fun scene, we see how Nick the fox manages to turn an elephant-sized ice cream into many small rodent-sized ice creams. Incredible as it may seem, the scene is a prodigy of Lean philosophy and the use of resources: how to obtain raw materials at low cost, how to maximize sales starting from the same amount of product, reduce the number of waste to zero, proximity to the point of sale to the consumer, recycling… And, to top it off, Nick ends up reselling the ice cream sticks to a construction company made up of rodents. A true zero percent waste.

Logistics of other times

What is Jurassic Park but a movie about logistics? If we have already begun to see the films from another perspective, in this saga we can interpret the extinction of the dinosaurs as a huge stock break in the transmission of DNA; one that lasts millions of years until this DNA is recovered and used to bring them back to life. From there we have a lesson about the problems that can be caused by high demand – everyone’s desire to see the dinosaurs – low supply, the greed of a company to establish a monopoly and the need to establish a plan of risks that evaluates all possible scenarios (especially when handling dinosaurs).

Dangerous Goods Logistics

Among the films in which we can trace the presence of logistics, the transport of dangerous goods is another of the most common subgenres. Especially the transport of dynamite and nitroglycerin; two ideal explosive substances to add a constant sensation of restlessness in the viewer due to the constant threat of explosion. Among the best, a classic like The Salary of Fear, the Golden Bear in Berlin and the Palme d’Or in Cannes, which perfectly traces the additional pressure that this type of shipment entails.

Another subgenre that would fit here would be infectious diseases. The way in which they are expanding in an increasingly global world, the problems of isolation and lack of communication that they produce, and the measures to stop their advance are problems with a clear logistical aspect. In the case of the film Contagion, again by Steven Soderbergh, it also includes an excellent scene about the search for the source of infection, in which the supply chain is turned around -or of infection in this case- in order to detect its origin. A study on how interconnected and globalized our world is.

come at any price

Another classic argument: the need to reach a certain destination before a certain time (and often stealing something along the way). Here we find blockbuster sagas such as Fast & Furious or the closest Baby Driver, dedicated to the consumption of popcorn and burning tires, to cult films with a nihilistic tone such as Punto Límite: Cero. A whole arsenal of films with the pressure to beat the clock as the central argument; the day to day logistics.

valuable merchandise

In some cases, the main challenge is not to arrive quickly, but rather to arrive and do so with the merchandise intact. This is the case of Taking Chance, in which Kevin Bacon plays a US soldier who has to repatriate the body of a colleague from Iraq to his home. Leaving aside the patriotic tone, the film is a sign of care with the cargo, of the importance of it reaching its destination intact and of the difficulties that shipments can suffer, even more so if they have to cross half the world.

Mountaineering movies offer us another side of what valuable merchandise can be. In titles like Everest we can see how the importance of a commodity also varies depending on its conditions, the need for it and how easy it is to be supplied. That is why oxygen bottles become a matter of life or death at 8,000 meters high. Without forgetting the logistics necessary for any ascent to these summits –organization, location of base camps, food, how to cook them, water, medicines, rescue options in case of an accident, having good information systems, communication-. Without forgetting the traceability of each person at all times. Logistics is especially critical in the Himalayas and, in general, in any process that is truly critical.

We could go on indefinitely, but we believe this set of films, genres and situations is a good example of the hidden presence that logistics have not only in the cinema, but in all of our lives. In short, it is a way of vindicating the work of professionals in supply chains around the world and of the companies that move materials around the planet.

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