by Phillip Clarke
CALGARY-For Lily (Odessa Young) and her three friends Bex (Hari Nef), Em (Abra), and Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), their sisterly bond is stronger than ever. Even though the world constantly seems out to get them, they at least have each other. Ask anybody who went to high school, and a fair majority will say that it was a living Hell. Ask any woman, and the answer would undoubtedly be doubly so.
When a data hack of a lascivious nature ends the career of Salem’s conservative town mayor, everyone goes on high alert in fear that their behind-closed-doors private business is about to be exposed next. The lives of the four girls drastically change when one of their own falls prey to those said attacks. In turn, the entire town has rallied against them, and are immediately on the prowl for some bloody justice. And you thought failing your math class was bad.
Assassination Nation is a blood-soaked and profanity-riddled good time that’s a marriage of Spring Breakers and The Purge franchise; equally unapologetic in both its politics and world-view. Writer/director Sam Levinson paints a brutal picture of America that while certainly satirical by design, feels bitingly prescient and entirely possible in today’s climate. It’s highly stylized, with not an ounce of subtlety to its name, and is all the better for it.
You laugh at much of the absurdity that goes on, because what you witness is truly cinematic insanity. The film has a pitch-black sense of humour and a whip-smart wit that permeates throughout, between the spray of bullets and carnage. Underneath that audible laugh however is a gnawing and uncomfortable feeling of nervous realisation in your gut. As outlandish as much of this film is, it also feel wholly reminiscent of a very possible real world that could certainly exist today.
Levinson uses several different clever camera maneuvers during the film’s violent moments, as well as its many painfully tense lead-ups to its crowd-pleasing revenge fantasy savagery. It’s his several minutes-long eye-popping unbroken take of Em’s mom’s house late at night that truly stands out, and is nothing short of show-stopping in its mastery.
Nothing Levinson does here is showy for the sake of it. Every aspect of the film is rooted in purpose. As if the film weren’t tense enough, we’re treated to a sweeping camera that shows almost every single room in the house on both levels. Not only do we clench our armrests at the number of armed men about to storm the sanctuary, but we also get to understand the geography in its entirety. Levinson ratchets up the tension to an almost unbearable degree, before the explosion of shrieks and gore are everywhere. The soundtrack is pretty killer too.
Assassination Nation is a tragic tale of youth culture gone wrong, that while condemning much of the millennial viewpoint in its misguided apathetic ennui, is also a sobering cold and hold punk-rock punch to the face.Abra, Assassination Nation, Calgary International Film Festival, Hari Nef, Odessa Young, Sam Levinson, suki waterhouse