Wednesday 3 April 2024

Prime Time: Reality (2023)

With a script crafted from FBI transcript of the featured incident, Reality is an impressive directorial debut from Tina Satter that features a performance from Sydney Sweeney that is so good that I finally see why she is having such a hot moment right now.

Sweeney plays Reality Winner, a young woman who works for the NSA. There's something not quite right on the fateful day that we viewers get to "meet" her though, as soon becomes obvious when she's approached by FBI agents (Garrick and Taylor, played respectively by Josh Hamilton and Marchánt Davis) outside her home. They seem to think that Reality may have something to do with a major story, confirmed by a classified document, that has been leaked to the press.

I suspect that many people are more familiar with this story than I was, especially if you live in the USA and keep abreast of major political debates and news coverage. I didn't know what this was all about, and I didn't have any idea about the outcome, so a lot of the film felt to me like some kind of potential Kafka-esque nightmare scenario. The FBI agents were just as unnerving in their pleasantness as they would have been with a more aggressive and forceful approach, and I wasn't even sure if people were presenting themselves honestly to the perplexed and nervous Reality.

Although it may seem strange to say it, considering how the dialogue is lifted directly from another source, the script, co-written by Satter and James Paul Dallas, maintains an air of authenticity throughout, punctuating the ongoing conversation with subtle changes in the focus of the characters and a deliberate highlighting of any words and phrases that have been redacted. What could have been a dry and dull conversation piece is turned into a very tense and thought-provoking examination of patriotism, freedom, different ideas of what constitutes duty, and the rigidity of certain practices and protocols.

Sweeney is fantastic in the main role, portraying a character used to remaining calm in difficult circumstances, due to her military background and, perhaps, her role in the NSA. She's never less than completely believable in the role, and manages to have viewers on her side without any overdone manipulation or overt appeals for sympathy. Both Hamilton and Davis are equally good, although it's the former who spends more time in direct conversation with Sweeney's character, and Benny Elledge adds some extra menace as another agent identified as Unknown Male.

Not a film I will rush to rewatch, and not one I think anyone else will rush to rewatch either, but Reality is something that everyone should see once. It's a story that everyone should know. Especially people like me, who actually missed it all when it was a leading conversation piece in various news outlets.


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  1. I haven't really paid any attention to the real-life story of that but then I don't have a subscription to the 24/7 news networks or newspapers so I'm not really involved much with that stuff.

    1. You might end up liking this as much as I did, thanks to not knowing the ins and outs of the case :)