When the Sundance Film Festival began in the late 1970s it was meant to be a festival to expose the greatest, freshest new voices in film. So many revolutionary filmmakers debuted at Sundance with films that helped shape the future of cinema such as Darren Aronofsky, Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino and many more.
These filmmakers created films that started new genres, bold movements and excitement over the art of film. After seeing the film Assassination Nation, I get that same feeling about director Sam Levinson.
Assassination Nation is the best film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and no other film is going to change my mind. It is every reason why people come to this festival. It is bold, challenging, beautiful, creative, shocking and exhilarating.
From the opening scene Levinson warns you with everything you are about to witness. It sets the tone and everything you think you can expect from it, it delivers ten fold.
The plot is nearly impossible to describe, but I’ll attempt it. The film follows four high school girls who are not necessarily the cookie cutter All-American archetype. The leader of the crew is Lily (Odessa Young) an outspoken and free spirited girl who is just as smart as she is sexual. The film begins focusing on her relationship with her boyfriend (It’s Bill Skarsgard) and her other relationship with an older married man who we are only introduced to as Daddy.
The film takes a turn when the Mayor of the city, Salem, gets hacked and his unusual sexual activity and interests are made public to the entire town. The embarrassment of the information met with the very harsh reaction from the citizens of Salem pushes the Mayor to commit suicide on live television.
This is only the beginning of the insanity of the film. The hacks continue and as the hacks get more and more numerous the citizens of Salem begin to lose their mind and mass hysteria and violence ensue.
I will describe no more.
What results is one of the most bonkers, insane films I have seen. The story is crazy and the action and violence become quite intense. But the film never once goes off the rails. It is so streamlined and well paced that the film is a breeze to get through and your heart rate is constantly elevated.
The cast is outstanding. While most characters are very young, you get a sense that the reality of the message of the film is something every single person working on this film believes in, so the dedication to the story comes so true to life on screen.
The movie is absolutely gorgeous. Levinson’s use of split screen action is pure cinema art on screen. The music and score of this film is hypnotic and add so much energy and really gives it a little something extra.
But what makes this film so incredible is how smart it is. I have trouble calling this a horror film and I even have a tough time calling it an action movie. It’s more of a social commentary done in a fashion that is so over the top yet grounded. Assassination Nation has so much to say about teenagers today and their obsession with technology. How social media and the screens of their phones run their every day lives. And it shows what may be the newest, deadliest weapon of the past decade, the Internet. It captures what it is like to be a high school student in today’s world better than anything I have ever seen. And seeing a film where the leads and characters with the greatest and loudest voices be four girls all ages 17 and 18 is quite refreshing.
Although it never will be, this should be required viewing for every 17 and 18 year old out there. Yes it’s vulgar and sexual and bloody, but it’s one of the smartest films I have seen in years. The medium Levinson chose to tell this story is incredible. It’s a film that is so perfect for the times we are in now and like I said before, the exact reason why I come to the Sundance Film Festival.