Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: Graphic violence, sexual violence, sex scenes & offensive language
Odessa Young as Lily Colson
Suki Waterhouse as Sarah Lacey
Hari Nef as Bex
Abra as Em Lacey
Bella Thorne as Reagan Hall
Bill Skarsgård as Mark
Joel McHale as Nick Mathers
Maude Apatow as Grace
Colman Domingo as Principal Turrell
Anika Noni Rose as Nancey Lacey
Director: Sam Levinson
High school senior Lily (Odessa Young) and her three best friends (Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, Abra) live in a haze of texts, posts, selfies and chats — just like the rest of the world. Their small town gets turned upside down when an anonymous hacker starts to reveal personal messages and secrets of thousands of people. As anger erupts into full-blown violence, the four girls soon find themselves in a fight for their lives against an armed mob.
I heard some things about Assassination Nation for a while, it was rather polarising for some people, and some referred to it as a better version of The Purge. Some loved the movie, others really disliked it. Going in not knowing much outside of that, I ended up falling somewhere in the middle camp on Assassination Nation, I don’t hate the movie but I do hate aspects of it. While the idea of it could’ve worked, it was just way too full of itself , obnoxious and trying way too hard to be ‘edgy’ and satirical that most of it doesn’t really land. Not that it doesn’t have some decent parts to it but it doesn’t make up for all the parts that don’t work.
From the very beginning, Assassination Nation is pretty rough. It’s really worth noting that the movie is very much a satire on modern day culture, especially with social media and partially focussing on high school kids who are on their phone all day, with it acting as a modern satire on the Salem Witch Trials. While on paper it sounds like it could be something good, the satire is so incredibly blatant, and obnoxiously so. Usually I don’t have a problem with in your face satire, both Sorry to Bother You and Vice are satires that aren’t particularly subtle that are among my favourite films of the year. I’m not sure what went wrong with Assassination Nation that didn’t work for me but here it just felt really annoying and pretentious (and trust me, I usually abstain from using that word because I hate it but I don’t know what else to call it). I think its because it comes across like the writer/director believes it to be like the greatest thing ever, is absolute genius, and smarter than it really is, even if he doesn’t necessarily feel that way. I can’t tell whether Assassination Nation will work for you or not, if you want to know for sure, you’ll just have to watch the movie for yourself. First of all the movie starts by giving a Trigger Warning and it just seemed like it was a way to be ‘edgy’. The movie starts from the very beginning going right into the social commentary. It got to the point where the movie just feels like the film embodiment of the meme ‘We Live In A Society’ (if you don’t know what it is, its not worth looking into it). The in your face satire that annoyed me mostly comes from the dialogue, which can be very cringe inducing and a pain to listen to at times. Making that worse is that while I can get what messages and themes they were going for, they don’t achieve it very well by the end and it just sort of disappears. Side note but you can tell from the beginning that it’s trying to be a female empowerment movie (it’s pretty hard to not notice this, given that the movie doesn’t know what subtlety is), but there are many moments in here that were incredibly questionable to that and very inconsistent. I didn’t care at all about any of the characters, they were unlikable, annoying, bland, or all 3. The lead characters were the closest to being watchable but I still didn’t care much about it all. So on top of the satire being ham fisted and obnoxious, I had no investment whatsoever in the story. If the whole town just blew up I wouldn’t have cared, in fact it probably would’ve been cathartic. It got to the point where I just wanted to watch the original Purge movie again instead, which is a feeling I never thought that I would ever have. Eventually Assassination Nation gets much better later on in the third act as it leans in more towards being somewhat like The Purge but that’s when there is like 40 minutes left of the running time and even then it doesn’t completely make up for the rest of the movie. With that said, if you’re like an hour of the way into the movie, just know that you may be entertained by the last act, so don’t jump out of it just yet.
Some of the ways characters act are meant to be satirical and over the top, a lot of the time they really come across as being obnoxious a lot of the time (the dialogue doesn’t help much) but the actors at least do the best they can in their roles and with what they have. The leads, Odessa Young, Sukie Waterhouse, Haris Nef and Abra are all good in their roles.
Something I can say is that the visual direction by Sam Levinson is pretty good. It’s got quite a good look, he definitely knows his way behind a camera, visually it is really a stunning looking movie. With that said, having scenes with very neon lighting isn’t enough to just make me love the movie, it doesn’t make up for the script. Despite there being a Trigger Warning at the beginning of the movie to seem ‘edgy’, it is genuinely a very violent and graphic movie and not for the faint of heart. Now I have a high threshold for movie violence, but whenever there’s a bunch of gratuitous violence that’s unneeded, it can turn me off and that’s the case here. It just added more onto the feeling that Assassination Nation was just trying way too hard.
Assassination Nation doesn’t work as well as I think the director thinks the movie is. While there are parts to it that are alright, with a messy script that comes across as trying way too hard, I did not have a particularly good time with the movie. With that said, I heard some very divided reactions, so I’m not sure how you’ll feel about it. I guess if you’re curious enough you could check it out but honestly I don’t think you’re missing out on much if you decide not to watch it. Maybe if I was still in high school or something I might’ve liked the movie a lot more.