ASSASSINATION NATION is the latest film from writer/director Sam Levinson (Another Happy Day) and is a blatant, bloody, and heartwrenching commentary on America in 2018 and the hypocrisy embedded in so many Americans that choose ignorance over understanding. The film stars Odessa Young (High Life), Hari Nef (Transparent), Suki Waterhouse (The Bad Batch), Abra (Last Call with Carson Daly), Bill Skarsgard (2017’s IT), and Joel McHale (Community).
High school senior Lily (Odessa Young), and her three best friends, are living in a world rampant with selfies, obsession with social media, secrets, and sexting. When their town of Salem becomes the target of a data hack, over half the citizen’s private info becomes public, resulting in the townsfolk turning on one another and creating chaos and mayhem; almost as if it was a modern day witch-hunt. When Lily is wrongly accused of being responsible for the hack, her and her best-friends must band together and fight the unfolding madness if they have any chance of surviving.
Though this movie was released this past weekend, it’s taken me almost a week to gather my thoughts for this review. ASSASSINATION NATION is easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year, and a film that blatantly and unapologetically shines a light on the state of America in 2018. Going into this film, I had very little knowledge of what it would entail, thinking it would just be about a group of female assassins, so imagine my shock when I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat in complete awe and horror at its realistic depiction of what we are seeing in America right now. The film begins with a quick succession of trigger warnings, which I assumed was just a play on the cultural significance of having these warnings, not realizing that they would come into play much later, before descending into a neon frenzy depiction of what being an 18 year old is all about. However, don’t let that fool you, as the tone and themes of what this film really is showcasing come into play rather quickly.
Throughout its 108 minute runtime, the film touches upon themes ranging from transphobia, to slut shaming, and everything in-between. It’s extremely relevant in 2018 and Sam Levinson does a brilliant job of showcasing how paranoia, the delicate male ego, and hypocrisy come to light when people would rather accept information that is easily accessible as opposed to the facts. In a way, ASSASSINATION NATION could be seen as a commentary on how the alt-right handles information that is given to them. However, I think for me, the biggest takeaway from this film was how destructive perception can be. In one instance of the film, we find out that the principal of the high school has had his phone hacked and in his photos he has pictures of his 2-year old daughter nude. The community goes absolutely bat-shit insane, calling for his resignation and labeling him a pedophile. Even when he tries to explain the reasoning behind these photos, the community refuses to hear about them since at this point they have already labeled him a predator.
ASSASSINATION NATION is a film that I think people will be talking about for years to come. With strong performances from the cast, and a villainous role from Joel McHale that made my stomach turn, this film as a whole is close to perfection. The horror that takes place in this film isn’t in the form of something supernatural, but instead brought about through human interactions. One of the most prevalent forms of this is when we see the fragile male ego break down and the resulting entitlement that men feel they can elicit because of this. It’s truly terrifying what men of that pedigree feel they are allowed to do to women and those they deem “less important” when they are shot down, and Sam Levinson shows that in all it’s horrifying glory.
There’s so much to decipher and uncover and take in with ASSASSINATION NATION that I feel like I’m not doing this film review justice. All I can really say is that I wish all of you reading this would go and see it because it’s a film that needs to be seen by the masses. It’s hard to watch at times, with some truly upsetting scenes, but I think it’s important for all of us to acknowledge that those actions happen in real life. For me, I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie that spliced the dream-like sequences of females entering adulthood with the horrors that the world is about to bestow upon them. I hope that everyone who sees ASSASSINATION NATION walks away with a better understanding how certain people are treated and a reminder that kindness and understanding goes a long way. All in all, I can’t recommend this movie enough and I hope to discuss it with all of you in person soon.