Every epidemic has a patient zero — even fake ones. Inspired by true events, RUDY’S NOISE is a limited series about the first person to 'contract' the fabricated affliction. Part espionage thriller and part political farce, it's a madcap whirlwind story of a group of paranoid people letting self-importance literally get to their heads.
What is Havana Syndrome?
Havana syndrome is an alleged set of medical symptoms with unknown causes experienced by U.S. government officials and military personnel abroad, first reported in 2016 by U.S. and Canadian embassy staff in Havana, Cuba. Often categorized as a mass psychogenic illness, its symptoms have been attributed to tinnitus, pesticide exposure, and cicadas.
Rudy has come a long way from his conservative Mormon upbringing in the suburbs of Salt Lake City — 2,099 miles to Havana, Cuba. He's traded his lucky debate club tie for a dark suit, swapped his Eagle Scout merit badges for a Glock 19, and is ready to serve his country.
One night after a thrash metal show with Xio, his handler, Rudy's beer-soaked brain mistakes a bout of tinnitus for symptoms of a mysterious attack by the Cubans, the Russians, or both. He becomes more paranoid as the symptoms worsen. In the following days, the ringing escalates into dizziness, shakiness, and nausea. His job performance plummets.
Rudy confides in Xio and Karl, an agency vet. Xio begins to feel symptoms and Karl reveals a case of intense and ongoing paranoia. They feed off each other's energy, trading theories and potential cures. Karl gifts Rudy with a strange device that he promises will cure him while Xio spreads a rumor of the attack throughout the agency.
Increasingly afraid, Rudy comes apart at the seams. He chases random civilians he believes are following him until one intense chase results in a debilitating panic attack. Rudy is moved to a secure location and examined by agency doctors.
As powerful figures in the United States government catch wind of Rudy's condition, they try to use him as a political pawn. Rudy becomes the unwitting, unwilling face of a completely fabricated illness that soon sweeps the globe.
RUDY HATCH (36)
Rudy was born in Salt Lake City. He's the youngest child of a large family, leaving him with attention-seeking behavior. He grew up as a mainstream Mormon until his father was radicalized by a fundamentalist sect. There's a history of mental illness in his family, including his mother, who was committed to a mental institution during Rudy's teen years.
Rudy was high school class president and debate club champ, then joined the Air Force and served in Afghanistan, where he lost his Mormon faith. He was recruited by the CIA during the Obama years and stationed undercover in Russia for an indeterminate amount of time. He was eventually sent to Ukraine, where he was involved in the Maidan Rebellion. His weak stomach for action resulted in his transfer to Cuba, where he was stationed undercover as an ambassador.
Rudy is charismatic but awkward, potentially on the autism spectrum. He's a loner type who's never had a girlfriend. He doesn't smoke or drink often (except for the occasional Heineken), but he practices extreme sports like rock climbing. He's a big fan of post-punk music and listens to Depeche Mode loudly in his car. In combination with his time around planes, this habit left him with undiagnosed tinnitus.
Xiomara (Xio) Peña (28)
Xio was raised in a broken home in Havana, leaving her people-pleasing to a fault. After college, she was recruited by the CIA and trained in the U.S. She was assigned a deep cover position within the Cuban government, serving as a handler and collaborator for new agents in the country.
Xio has a crush on Rudy, who is completely oblivious. She has a close group of friends in Havana but tends to manipulate and gaslight them — an urge she has trouble controlling. She practices New Age medicine and dabbles in Santería.
KARL MALONE (65)
Karl Malone has served in the CIA since Bush Sr. He's respected for his involvement in high-profile operations and loves to tell war stories. Now old and washed up, Karl is on his third marriage to a Cuban singer. He has several kids from his previous marriages but they don't speak to him.
Karl is a stodgy CIA has-been who is fundamentally insecure and feels behind-the-times. He thinks Rudy represents a new wave of agency talent. He's a chronic liar and is secretly a 'targeted individual' who suffers from chronic paranoia, though he knows better than to share that fact.
The backdrop is Havana during the summer 2016. Obama recently visited the island — the first sitting U.S. president to do so since 1928 — and diplomatic relations look good. Raúl Castro is president, Ramón has passed, and Fidel is alive.
The streets of Havana are lively during the day and peaceful at night. Cars from the 1980s zip down narrow streets between vendors all peddling the same paintings and tchotchkes.
The older generation is content to sip coffee on the sidewalk while the younger generation consumes American media like anyone else. A portion of the youth has a desire to make more money and find more professional opportunities.
Rudy's apartment in La Víbora is tidy but dated. The decor is juvenile — dorm room posters and vinyl records on the walls. The place falls into disrepair as his symptoms advance.
The U.S. Embassy is stuffy and full of nerds with an underlying air of espionage and mystery. The place is decorated with vintage Americana memorabilia.
Café Americano is an oddly-named Irish pub frequented by spooks. It was once owned by Meyer Lansky, which is now a point of pride. Home to nightly karaoke and a few cruising sex workers, the bar is a meet up spot for our characters.
The CIA safe house where Rudy and Xio meet is in a dodgy part of town. It's a '90s modern' bachelor pad full of decor and ephemera from previous hot shot agents.
Tone & Style
The heart of HAVANA SYNDROME is a critical eye toward the U.S. intelligence apparatus, using the example of Havana Syndrome to illustrate how cynical, contrived, and overblown things can become when filtered through the CIA.
The tone of the film is somewhere between an espionage thriller and a political farce, alternating between genres hen appropriate. The comedy is derived more from the composure and behavior of the characters rather than written jokes. While the characters can be downright despicable, we empathize with the impossible positions they find themselves in, as well as with the continuous failure they perpetuate.
Like BURN AFTER READING, the characters are affable morons who find themselves thrust into history. The pacing and dialogue bears resemblance to Armando Iannucci films like IN THE LOOP. The action sequences are dark and tense, similar to IN BRUGES. The general tone or irony and satire takes notes from THE INFORMANT!
We open on Rudy moshing carefree in the pit of a punk venue, having the time of his life. He's come a long way.
Later, Rudy is in the back of a Ford Super Deluxe ripping down the streets of Havana. Xio drives and some of her scene friends are in the car. They tell Rudy about Havana's personality and history until they come to a police checkpoint. A cop pulls Rudy out of the car and puts a weird electronic gun to his head before letting them go.
Rudy stumbles into his apartment, drunk. He eats a burrito, throws up, and gets in bed, ears ringing like crazy.
The next day, Rudy goes out to the countryside and uses homing pigeons to spy on El Capitolio, though he struggles to get the birds to cooperate. Stress sets in and he's hit by a 'sonic wave' that brings him to his knees. He calls Xio to warn her about the attack and she starts to feel symptoms.
Rudy stumbles back to his apartment and tears the place apart, looking for the source of the attack.
Rudy goes to Karl for advice. Karl takes Rudy to his tin foil-coated apartment and describes how he's been the focus of Russian brainwave attacks for decades. Rudy is skeptical but open-minded. Karl gifts Rudy a mysterious piece of technology which Rudy pretends to understand.
Rudy attends a congressional session and becomes increasingly paranoid. The ringing gets worse and worse. Physical symptoms manifest — shaky legs, swimming vision, aches and pains.
Rudy goes home and tries to figure out Karl's device. He watches people on the street and sees an old man on a bike who he believes to be monitoring him.
Rudy gives a visiting group of American tourists a Segway tour of Old Havana. He's distracted and ruins the tour.
The next morning, Rudy sees the old man on the bike and rushes out to catch him. The man takes off and Rudy chases him on a Segway. He catches the old man who turns out to be deaf, though Rudy is convinced he's a deep-cover agent. They have an awkward confrontation that quickly becomes violent, thanks to Rudy's intense paranoia. Rudy accidentally kills the old man and leaves his body in a dumpster.
Rudy stumbles around the city in a daze until he comes across Xio's apartment. He crashes a party where several agents play Settlers of Catan. He tells them about the sonic attacks and some of the others begin to experience symptoms.
Leaving Xio's apartment, Rudy has a panic attack and collapses in the street.
Rudy wakes up in an ambulance driven by a CIA agent. He's brought to a black site emergency room where he's examined to by a team of expert doctors. He describes his symptoms and — to his surprise — they believe him.
The doctors clear out and a high ranking Pentagon official named General Papastathopoulos enters. It quickly becomes clear that the general is using Rudy as a political tool to escalate animosity between the U.S. and Cuba/Russia.
Rudy is airlifted to D.C. In a last-ditch effort, Rudy pleads that his affliction is real. The general doesn't care.
Rudy testifies before Congress. He describes the nature of his condition and outlines who he believes to be behind it. The session is hijacked by old warmongering republicans who use Rudy as a political tool. He desperately tries to get them to listen but he's bowled over.
Against his wishes, Rudy becomes the face of Havana Syndrome. It spreads throughout the globe, reported by agents in China, Russia, Australia, and Uzbekistan. Rudy appears on a cable news program, where he claims the CIA has hijacked his unique illness and manipulated the message for political purposes.
In the middle of the night, Rudy is black-bagged by CIA agents and brought to a black site to be interrogated and tortured. Just before he's waterboarded, Rudy caves. He tells the agents he'll do whatever they want and say whatever they tell him to. His weakness of character is on full display.
Rudy returns to the cable news program to recant his previous statement. Stress builds as they mic him up and he beings to hear a soft whine.
Midway through Rudy's public apology, the whine builds into full-blown symptoms — ringing, dizziness, nausea. Rudy is recants the recanting, going on a rampage where he raves about the security state while ripping apart the studio.
In millions of homes around the US, television feeds are cut.