Sunday, September 23, 2018

‘Assassination Nation’ Review: The Perfect Film for our Modern America

Assassination Nation is an easy film to take one look at and disregard. And perhaps that has more to do with how poorly it was marketed, but on a surface level, it may have appeared as pop-schlock masquerading as a feminist battle cry. What this movie actually presents is a scathing rebuke of modern America, and the old stodgy white men that continue to try to shape our lives. And while Assassination Nation may not be the year's best film, it almost certainly strikes me as the year's smartest film.

The plot is simple. It follows four high school girls: Lily (Odessa Young), Bex (Hari Nef), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), and Em (Abra). They are wild and beautiful girls, caught up in the vices of social media and crazy parties. Their town of Salem is thrown into complete chaos when a malevolent hacker begins leaking the entire online lives of every person in town.

The start of the film is slow, but necessary. The tone and style of these early moments really evokes Harmony Korine's film Spring Breakers, but Assassination Nation succeeds in almost every way that Spring Breakers fails. We see the main characters partying and gossiping, and it would be easy to hate these characters, but the movie takes careful time to humanize these girls. We get to see past their glamorous exteriors and spend precious, small moments getting to see who they really are.

And the slow intravenous drip of the film's first half is only a mirage. What is really happening is that a candy-coated cobra is slowly coiling up, getting ready to strike. And the venom is a sweet, cathartic elixir that pulses through your veins and sets your nerves on fire.

As much as I would love to never have to utter his name on this site, it is truly impossible to not view this film through the lens of Trump's America. It is a film about entitled white men telling free spirited, sex-positive young women what they can and can not be. Moments of this film are sickening, and as hard to watch as any modern daily news telecast. But the film's brutal final act compels you to throw a fist in the air and cheer out as our four main girls rally like-minded, transcendent young thinkers to take what they rightfully deserve.

Assassination Nation does play fast and loose with gun violence, but at no point does it feel like it glamorizes it. And really, it is a film that will drive you to to take up arms, but not literal ones. The film's heroines take up the weapons of their enemies and use them against them to destroy them. It's a lesson that I think more young people should pay attention to. The weapons of your oppressors can  be turned on them, and just as easily be the tools of their demise. You just have to put in the work.

Every second of every scene of this film could be framed and put in an art show. Every image is so dense with metaphor and meaning. Silhouetted, masked figures watch violence against women safely from their windows and do nothing. Strong willed young women fire guns at a pick-up truck, fully adorned with American flags, while macho young men cower in fear, taking cover behind it. The setting, a town called Salem, wherein which the people in power are trying to pin a crime on four young women, while there is no true evidence to actually point towards their guilt. Every detail of this film was crafted so thoughtfully.

When I started writing this review, my final score was going to be high, but not perfect. But the more I talk through it, and explore the details of it all, I think Assassination Nation might be a masterpiece. It is so smart, and totally subverts everything that you think that it can, and should, be. This film is being criminally under-seen right now (it opened to #15 overall in its opening weekend), and so it won't be around for long. It's a movie that deserves to be seen on the big screen, and I think it is so worth your time.

I give Assassination Nation a 5 out of 5. It is in theaters now.