Game of Pawns opens with guys taking shots and a declaration that junior year in college "was going to be the best year of my life," and no, it's not the latest Zac Efron film. It's a 28-minute movie released last week by the FBI that's designed to clue college kids in on the dangers of studying abroad—and its focus isn't exactly on stolen passports. Rather, the FBI is loudly warning this group, which numbers 280,000 annually, not to turn into spies. It makes the case that these students are targeted by foreign intelligence officers who sneakily forge relationships with students "under seemingly innocuous pretexts such as job or internship opportunities, paid paper-writing engagements, language exchanges, and cultural immersion programs." And then things build from there.
The movie makes its case by dramatizing a real case: that of Glenn Shriver, who left Michigan's Grand Valley State University in 2004 to study in China. He innocently took a job writing political papers on Chinese-American relations for $120 a pop, Fox News reports. He was then encouraged by those he worked for to pursue a job with the US government (prodding that occurred, at times, in hotel penthouses). He complied: BusinessWeek reports he failed the State Department Test twice, and moved on to applying for a position with the CIA. He got $70,000 from China for his troubles ... along with a four-year prison sentence when he was arrested after his CIA interview; he pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge. Message aside, how's the film? NPR talked to its screenwriter, who said, "I think it actually has very decent production values. Some people were complaining about cliche dialogue, and some of the things they cited as examples were things that Glenn had actually said in the interviews."