05th Oct2018

LFF 2018: ‘Assassination Nation’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, Abra, Colman Domingo, Bill Skarsgård, Joel McHale, Anika Noni Rose, Bella Thorne, Maude Apatow, Cody Christian, Danny Ramirez | Written and Directed by Sam Levinson

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High school senior Lily and her crew of besties live in a haze of texts, posts, selfies, and chats – just like the rest of us. So when a provocateur starts posting details from the private digital lives of everyone in their small town of Salem, the result is a Category 5 shitstorm. We’re talking browser histories, direct messages, illegal downloads, secret text chains, and way, way, way worse. People get angry. Like, “rampaging murder posse” angry. And Lily finds herself right in the middle.

Sam Levinson’s Assassination Nation is one, if not the most, destructive, controversial and operatic films ever of such an excessive and progressive nature. Deconstructing and reconstructing itself in the wake of a complete bombardment of social economics and social commentary, referencing the very harsh and toxic social world we inhabit at this moment; and the possible torrential morbidity of the world we’re ever so close in stepping into.

Assassination Nation inflicts such a harsh and painful much-needed wound upon the watchers of the terrifying unfolding of abuse, both contextually and sub textually. With a terrifying boiling pot of social paranoia made the more engrossing and fascinating thanks to the ironically dour and lucid aesthetic. An aesthetic that’s intoxicating, with a hint of possible addiction to trouble and violence – making for a rich and engrossing aspect within the film itself. A spellbound questioning of morality, and the trauma of even the smallest instances of terror occurs with haunting tremors and dashes of ambivalent social realism and tension; which builds in such an astonishing and haunting fashion… almost an inevitable factor in the future of popular culture.

Levinson’s film, smartly so, splits itself up to what’s best described as small doses of “Music Video” aesthetics and structure within the first act. Small doses of bite-size information are presented in astonishingly vivid and abstract forms via visual elements of three-way split-screen and montage. With all major influencers of popular culture present via the mediums of Instagram, Facebook, etc. A contextually conscious decision to create a fast impact approach of emptiness, only for the film to slow itself down midway through its second act, both storywise and delivery, to a far more haunting, violent manner with stronger horrors in which the audience is wholeheartedly made to see in all of its antagonizing fashion.

The cinematography by Marcell Rév and editing by Ron Patane are two aspects of production that are unequivocally marvellous – even moreso as the film progresses. Most notably in the films final act, a wonderfully effective and extravagant sequence shot in one take, presumably broken up in the editing albeit ever so slight if that’s the case. The scene itself propels the audience to withstand such terror on screen and bare witness to the films most violent and undoubtedly necessary scene. A terrific element to the overall impact and a clever necessity to not lose its audience. Mentioned briefly above, the inclusion of 21st-century aesthetic never feels overly tacked on or redundant. Its place ultimately validated by the core plot itself.

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