By Nicole Zamlout
Films that offer a political commentary usually succeed, but only at the expense of their plot. The story itself becomes nothing more than window dressing, a set of examples on how to approach whatever topic is being discussed and the points of whatever opinion the director is trying to convey. But in “Assassination Nation,” the story seems to adapt to this confinement, which makes the message more engaging and less like a political lecture.
The film is basically a modernization of the Salem witch trials. The plot follows Lily (Odessa Young) and her three friends, seniors in high school who live in Salem, Massachusetts. The town slowly succumbs to madness and violence after a hacker unearths many of its citizens’ digital files, including texts, photos and private accounts. While the premise seems a bit far-fetched, it actually works well since the point of the film is its political message, not the fictional plot itself.
The story, while engaging, focuses more on issues such as, feminism, sexuality and privacy rights in the midst of cyber security controversy. Lily’s narration does more to convey the points being made in the film than to move the story along. While in some films this would take away from the story and distort the quality of the commentary, the story is so outlandish that the political commentary helps keep viewers on track.
The film has some complex ideas to convey, and the acting is executed to aid in that goal. Young plays her character with a seamless combination of grace and fierceness. She boldly breaks the cinematic fourth wall to ask the audience startling questions about sexuality and femininity, all while making her a character someone we can sympathize with. The balance between commentator and character in these films is often hard to achieve, so her performance is one that many should note.
The other cast members also help make the premise more realistic. Colman Domingo, who plays Principal Turrell, accurately depicts to viewers how necessary it is to act poised even in times of crisis –– after the hackers reveal pictures he had of children on his phone, people start accusing him of pedophilia, even though he has never committed any wrongful act.
The cinematography is extremely well executed. Many of the shots of the film are saturated with color, aiding in the surreal, dreamlike vibe of the film. The score gives ferocious energy to the film and add a sense of danger to each scene.
The technical elements added the last splashes of flavor that make the film something worth watching, even if you don’t agree with every idea it expresses.
The film dares to comment on controversial topics with a story with an outlandish plot and complex characters that refuse to be ignored. A film like this defies conventional ideas, which makes it a killer flick.