+ Recommended – R, Comedy, Action
TRIGGER WARNING: This movie is not for people who are offended easily as it pulls absolutely no punches. Assassination Nation is very aware of the narrative it’s trying to drive home. These stories are ones that are not often told, especially not in a hyper-violent fashion such as this. Even though it manages to thrill, and to show the sheer carnage of human nature, it’s not nearly as violent as expected. But make no mistake: there will be blood.
There’s a breach of online privacy in the American town of Salem revealing the disgusting nature of some townsfolk, and for some, a true identity. For many, this data hack will ruin lives, but for others, it may just be the cure they need to “disinfect” the town from certain “harmful populations”. Four friends: Lily, Bex, Sarah, and Em will need to load up and defend themselves from the prejudices of America. Unfortunately for them, they’ve practically evoked anger from the entire nation.
Assassination Nation breaks the core belief I have regarding storytelling: don’t hold the audience’s hand by muting narrative nuance. Art thrives upon the notion that everyone’s able to gather different interpretations from a particular story being told. There’s a very fine line between character motive and needless explanation or exposition. Denarration can arise from lack of perspective or character motive, yet there’s an art to balancing these different characteristics of literature. You need ambiguity but in order to do so, you’ll need character motive to understand the actions taking place; to have motive, you’ll need to do everything in your power as a filmmaker to negate denarration. That’s why film, most certainly, is considered art. It’s delicate.
To put it simply: the movie explains to much, leaving the dialogue littered with unnecessary conversations pertaining to real-life problems that would be better to show. Now, they do eventually come to a place where they would rather show but it takes the plot a while to progress to this point. Many of the beginning scenes were used to prop-up the ideology behind the film rather than show the cause-effect relationship between the problems society faces and how these characters respond. They often feel empty, and aren’t really given that much to do leading up to the climax. Yet, I felt myself rooting for these women who have faced an uphill battle their entire lives; and the actor’s find a way to turn their characters into something more than the script called for.
Particular standouts include: Odessa Young (The Daughter, 2015) and Hari Nef (Transparent, 2015) . The supporting characters bring their A-game as well (Bill Skarsgård), even if their characters are abominations to society. The direction from Sam Levinson (Another Happy Day, 2011) paired with the cinematography by Marcell Rév (Jupiter’s Moon, 2017) brought a sense of urgency to the story; it felt chaotic. To my surprise, I was more impressed by the camera work than anything else. A very climactic moment came to life through beautiful camera dollying, several pans interspersed with varying tilts, and with absolutely no cuts (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it). If anything, the camera work done here adds more to this story than any other facet of the film.
Overall, I liked Assassination Nation. The lighter comedy elements worked some of the time and the story being told is critical to our survival and function as a living species, but it had some obvious flaws. It doesn’t rely on as many ques from movies like The Purge and does, indeed, gain it’s own identity outside of any particular genre. Don’t rush out to the theatres opening night but do try to catch it before it leaves the cinema.