Assassination Nation (CIFF 2018)

While Assassination Nation might not be a great movie, it sure is an angry one, and as far as I’m concerned, that needs to count to something. Here is a movie that sees a problem with society—in this case, the mob mentality of online culture, particularly when it comes to its general disdain for women—and wants to do something about it. It doesn’t quite know how to get there, it stumbles a few times along the way, and it’s a bit long-winded, but its heart is in the right place, and change never happened efficiently or in the cleanest way anyway, right?

The film follows four high school girls in Salem—not the most subtle of locations, but okay—as a rash of hacks and leaks begin to take place in the town. First the mayor, then the principal, and eventually half the town has had their digital accounts, texts, pictures, etc. leaked for everyone else to read. This … doesn’t go very well. The film has one of the girls, Lily (Odessa Young) narrate and she informs us that the reactions may seem hyperbolic but they’re 100% a true story. Assassination Nation isn’t based on any one story, but the reactions from the people certainly feel authentic—they just happen online, not “in real life.”

The film is angry about this, and it wants you to know that it isn’t okay. Its head and heart are in the right place. It’s just not an especially entertaining movie, especially given how long it takes to get to its thesis. The two initial hacks feel redundant—one would’ve made the point and made the running time more manageable—and there’s a good chunk of downtime while we wait for events that our narrator promises us right at the beginning. Its characters aren’t deep or interesting enough to sustain it during that time, either, which is going to lead to some audience members checking out before it gets good.

But once Assassination Nation “gets there,” it’s very engaging and might stir up emotions—anger and hope chief among them—in all but those who are cheering for people the film paints as the villains. And those people exist, and are in some respects louder than ever in this day and age. The movie is anti-them. If you are one of them, maybe rethink the way you treat people—both online and off. That’s your takeaway.

Conclusion: Assassination Nation is messy and takes too long to get going to be anything other than an angry, well-intentioned movie that’ll only satisfy a specific audience.

Recommendation: If Assassination Nation sounds like your thing, it probably is. But if it doesn’t, stay far away.

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