Friday, September 21, 2018

Assassination Nation - Review

The internet has become an entirely new beast over the last two years, and it's hard to imagine anyone would disagree. Endless shouting over various issues, takedowns of famous figures, and waves of hatred have invaded everyone’s life in some fashion. And that’s what makes the concept of Assassination Nation fascinating. A town torn apart by online scandal doesn’t seem that far-fetched in the year 2018.

High school senior Lily (Odessa Young) and her three best friends (Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse & Abra) live in a haze of texts, posts, selfies and chats -- just like the rest of the world. Their small town gets turned upside down when an anonymous hacker starts to reveal personal messages and secrets of thousands of people. As anger erupts into full-blown violence, the four girls soon find themselves in a fight for their lives against an armed mob.

Despite never feeling like actual characters, it’s hard to not root for the four girls at the center of this chaotic event. They feel more like representations of a high school society more than actual people, but it works for this film. Having four actresses with chemistry and who operate well in this arena helps when there is exactly zero development from start to finish. 

Where Assassination Nation excels is in its themes. Narrative cohesion may be lacking but the representation of American internet culture through the antics on display here are painfully familiar, though extreme to the highest degree possible. It revels in its exploitation roots, taking everything just one step further than you expected.

And the film is aware of its over-the-top nature, offering a slightly ironic trigger warning before it gets started. It follows through with each warning in spades, making the whole affair equal parts exciting and infuriating. Yet, none of this feels as outlandish as it should, it simply takes the comments and righteous outrage that so many people hide behind and online and makes it a reality. In that way, Assassination Nation might just be the most terrifying film of the year. 

Assassination Nation is a love it or hate it type of film, and as you may have noticed, I tend to lean towards the former. The characters might as well be nameless avatars with the priority being representation rather than development, but the performances are good enough for what the film requires. It is a high-octane, bloody, and dangerous ride that is incredibly surreal and painfully close to social media culture. It’s hard to whole heartedly recommend what is sure to be a divisive film, but one thing's for certain: Assassination Nation will start many conversations. 

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