Assassination Nation (2018)

Assassination Nation, written and directed by actor-turned-filmmaker Sam Levinson (Another Happy Day), is a bitingly funny, black satire on America today that’s enjoyably ultra-violent.

The Social Media Crucible

by Alexa Dalby

Assassination Nation

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Set in Salem, Assassination Nation is narrated by teenage Lily (Odessa Young). In a knowing voiceover, she warns us from the start to be ready for: “drug use, sexual content, toxic masculinity, homophobia, transphobia, guns, nationalism, racism, kidnapping, the male gaze, sexism, swearing, torture, violence, gore, weapons and fragile male egos.” These events revolve around her and her group of best friends, transexual Bex (Hari Nef), Em (Abra) and Sarah (Suki Waterhouse).

The ubiquitous use and misuse of social media is warping lives – teenagers’ and adults’ – and there’s no such thing as privacy. In this small town, a mysterious hacker starts leaking the contents of people’s hard drives and texts with results that are personally disastrous. Most people’s secrets involve porn, and more and more people are targeted, including such publicly upright figures as the mayor (Cullen Moss) and high school principal (Colman Domingo).

Lily has been sexting with the married neighbour (Joel McHale) whom she babysits for. Her phone’s photo gallery is put online too, but then public opinion puts the blame for the hacking on her. As a result, contemporary Salem becomes the scene of an anarchic contemporary witch-hunt of the four friends. There’s a wonderful, long continuous take of a home invasion by murderous high-school students, picking off the occupants one by one.

Things rapidly get extreme. The town’s suspicion of the girls generates a grisly, flamboyant splatter-fest of violence, counter-violence and lynching that drives its moral home. Streets full of men with automatic weapons wearing red baseball caps echoing Make America Great again are the scene of a pitched battle against avenging ‘gals with guns’ dressed in iconic red PVC macs.

America, today: the film’s not subtle, there’s a lot of debatably gratuitous violence against women but sadly although it’s a satire, it’s all too believable.

Assassination Nation screened Sundance, the BFI London Film Festival and is released on 23 November 2018 in the UK.

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