#REVIEW: “ASSASSINATION NATION”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Someone is hacking and leaking the personal data of the people of Salem. High school student Lily (Odessa Young) fears that her secrets may end up online as well, as do her best friends Bex (Hari Nef), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse) and Em (Abra). And as the town slowly descends into chaos and anarchy, things are going to get so much worse for these four women.
Watching Assassination Nation is like taking a shot of adrenaline, straight to the heart, that lasts from the opening frames right through the blood-soaked finale. Writer/Director Sam Levinson has created an electric piece of cinema that is startingly relevant, tackling a wide variety of topics that spread beyond online bullying and the #MeToo movement. The entire millennial generation and their actions/inactions are put under the microscope here, and the real-world ramifications are horrifying to say the least. Levinson, much like his contemporaries, is very angry and disgusted with reality, and he uses the film as a conduit to show just how horrible things have become.
The Internet and our private lives make up the bulk of Levinson’s themes and ideas. Much like Bo Burnham’s fantastic summer film Eighth Grade, Levinson’s film paints a picture of a culture obsessed with their smart phones and social media feeds. Where Burnham was subtle and kept adults at arm’s length, Levinson is blatant, sarcastic and lets some of the adult into the deceitful web he casts. He hones in on these nerve wrecking, terrifying moments and does his best to really show who these characters are. His comments on the human condition are a bit heavy handed given how brutally violent and nihilistic the Film becomes in the Third Act, but it makes sense within the story’s confines (and for his non-subtle metaphors for the Salem witch trials).
The brutal violence will undoubtedly keep people away from seeing Assassination Nation, as will the intense scenes of assault and violence against women. But Levinson wants to make a point, and he uses these extreme elements to do it. I admire his tenacity here, and his vivid depictions of teenage adolescence. I was not a fan of the way he edited some of the party scenes together in the first half, but his style and unique perspective make the Film one of 2018’s most visually-spectacular. I also am not quite sure how to feel about the way Levinson’s camera leans into the male gaze so purposefully, but much like the vicious violence, he has an extreme reason for doing it.
The acting from the central four actresses is magnificent. Each of these young women get a moment to shine, giving fierce and powerful performances. Young carries the whole Film on her shoulders with ease, and she is just as intense and determined in her performance as Levinson is behind the camera. The Supporting Cast featuring Joel McHale, Colman Domingo, Bill Skarsgård, Anika Noni Rose, Bella Thorne and Maude Apatow are all excellent and do a great job selling Levinson’s vision.
Assassination Nation is a fantastic ride from start to finish, and one of my favourite Films of the year. This bold piece of filmmaking is not for everyone, but its startling vision makes the need to see the Film as relevant and immediate as possible. The Film’s brilliant last line practically seems like a rallying call for an entire generation. And while some of Assassination Nation’s events may seem outrageous, they also seem like horrifying real-world possibilities.
Elevation Pictures release ASSASSINATION NATION on Friday, September 21, 2018.