Assassination Nation (2018) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Assassination Nation (2018) is Mean Girls-meets-the-Purge with something to say, and it completely worked for me. There is a considerable amount of controversial themes and content to make you hate this movie – much of which the viewer is presented with as “trigger warnings” at the opening of the film.  However, what it is saying about the instability of our world feels extremely relevant. Of course, there may be other reasons for a person to hate this movie…but for me, this film made some excellent points, had exceptional cinematography, and showcased terrific performances from the entire cast.

Assassination Nation shocked me into cinematic joy

Lily (Odessa Young), Bex (Hari Nef), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), and Em (Abra) are just normal teenage girls living in Salem. After a series of hacks release public figures’ personal content, it’s only a matter of time before the town starts to lose its collective mind. The fear of being the next one to have their personal files leaked leads the town’s residents to seek their own brand of vigilante justice.

Odessa Young, left, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse and Abra in “Assassination Nation.”

Writer and director Sam Levinson certainly has some opinions about the state of our nation, and expresses them through bloody satire. While several of the messages within the movie are directly stated by characters, they always worked within the context of the film and through the power of their deliveries. Some might find these to be on the nose, but in a film that does so much to be in your face, the monologues simply and effectively nailed the point home.

Levinson’s technical work with the film is also outstanding. Levison, working with cinematographer Marcell Rév, gives a fantastic long take sequence that moves around the outside of a house as events are getting ever more intense on the inside. The audience is watching helplessly as the events transpire and the camera moves up, down, and around the two-story home’s exterior. The visual was stunningly done, but the tension it manages to create is all the more impressive. There are several other camera choices and lighting effects that make this more than just another film about angry people lashing out at those they deem responsible.

There are several impressive performances from bigger named actors with relatively small roles in this movie, though the stand out performances are definitely Young and Nef. While there are four girls in the lead roles, it really boils down to these two. Their stories provide much of the emotional attachment, and despite initially being depicted as the best people by many’s standards (which is one of the messages the film is emphasizing) they completely won me over. I immensely cared about the well-being of these girls, and felt real anxiety as things spiraled out of control.

Final thoughts…

I went in hoping to have a little bit of mindless, violent fun, but walked out being extremely impressed by Assassination Nation. The film was fun in a number of ways, but also made me squirm more times than not. Many of the messages which may be distilled from the movie are positive, though the reactions of humanity are so believable it’s unnerving. Thus, in its chillingly compelling credit sequence, this movie simply worked for me and earns the Must See rating.

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