AS­SAS­SI­NA­TION NA­TION

OUT 23 NOVEM­BER CERT 18 / 108 MINS ★★★★

Empire (UK) - - ON. SCREEN -

DI­REC­TOR Sam Levin­son CAST Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Water­house, Abra, Bill Skars­gård

PLOT Amer­ica, to­day: a hacker leaks the pri­vate in­for­ma­tion of prom­i­nent fig­ures in the town of Salem. As more and more peo­ple are tar­geted, the town de­scends into vi­o­lent anar­chy; Lily (Young) and her friends fall un­der sus­pi­cion for the leaks. AS­SAS­SI­NA­TION NA­TION IS not a film that’s all that big on hid­den mean­ings. Quite the op­po­site — it’s a teen film that fires mul­ti­ple broad­sides at the ills of Trump’s Amer­ica and (mostly) hits its tar­gets. As sub­tle as a sledge­ham­mer, sure, but have you spent much time around teenagers lately? This is a film as ag­grieved at the world as any teenager who’s left won­der­ing what hor­rors, if high school’s sup­posed to be the high­light of your life, await in adult­hood.

In the first half, as we fol­low Lily (Young) and her friends through aim­less par­ty­ing in a typ­i­cal movie high school, writer/di­rec­tor Levin­son doesn’t so much lay his cards on the table as throw them at you — and the table for good mea­sure.

Lily is one of those movie teenagers given to mono­logu­ing about the themes of the film. In a rare mis­step, Levin­son tries to ape cur­rent Twit­ter­s­peak, which, given the life ex­pectancy of memes, means it can feel oddly dated. The likes of Heathers were smart enough to in­vent fu­ture­proof slang, but there’s a touch of Juno syn­drome here.

With those pro­vi­sos, a lot of Lily’s ser­mon­is­ing does hit home. It’s not hard to imag­ine a 17-year-old girl, fed-up from be­ing pestered for pic­tures of her arse, punch­ing the air as Lily ar­tic­u­lates just how bloody an­noy­ing it can be to be a girl in the smart­phone era.

Toxic mas­culin­ity is here di­ag­nosed as the ma­jor prob­lem with con­tem­po­rary Amer­ica: as the con­tents of the town’s phones are re­vealed to be mostly per­sonal Porn­hubs, the men go from toxic to vir­u­lent to down­right psy­chotic. One su­perb one-take house siege feels like a classed-up Purge out­take, and its al­ter­nately funny and un­nerv­ing how eas­ily the iconog­ra­phy of so­cial break­down around the world trans­plants onto sub­ur­ban Amer­ica. One ballsy scene links con­tem­po­rary strug­gles with his­tory by hav­ing a trans char­ac­ter al­most lynched: mo­ments like this will keep cul­tural stud­ies departments busy for years.

As with all satires, though, it’s in­ter­est­ing to note what’s not ad­dressed. When Lily et al de­fend them­selves with an arse­nal of guns, it seems not to oc­cur to Levin­son that pho­tograph­ing firearms as tools of cathar­tic vi­o­lence might be morally iffy. And for such a wide-rang­ing film, there’s an­other cu­ri­ous over­sight. All the self­ies, sexts and posts of the var­i­ous char­ac­ters are es­sen­tially part of a mas­sive data gath­er­ing op­er­a­tion on be­half of a hand­ful of com­pa­nies. Wouldn’t it be in­ter­est­ing if they asked who’s been prof­it­ing from driv­ing them mad? And turned their fury on them, rather than each other? AN­DREW LOWRY

VER­DICT Like a real-life stroppy teen, As­sas­si­na­tion Na­tion is pissed off with some­thing new ev­ery five min­utes — but there’s style and so­phis­ti­ca­tion here. The Trump era has its first dorm-room clas­sic.

Bana­narama had an edgy new look.

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