You’re always on your phone. Why don’t you go outside and actually talk to people? Why do you have to post everything to social media? If you’re of a certain generation (and even maybe if you’re not), chances are you’re accustomed to hearing this. And it’s true, the world is a very different place than it was before the internet, but while some older generations pretend that they don’t understand the fascination with social media and being online in general, that’s clearly not true. We’re all plugged in nowadays. Every, single one of us. And with the multitude of debates around privacy, alternative facts, and cyber bullying, it’s pretty obvious how dangerous technology can be in the wrong hands. Hell, there’s a whole amazing show about it (Black Mirror). But more often than not, when something goes wrong, it’s not the inventors who get blamed but the younger generation - the ones who are ‘always on their phone’ - and that’s the central storyline of one of the most anticipated upcoming movies of the year, Assassination Nation.
Written and directed by Sam Levinson and produced by Avengers: Infinity War directors the Russo brothers, Assassination Nation takes a small-ish American town and imagines what would happen if everyone’s secrets got out. Or, more accurately, what would happen if everyone’s secrets got out in such a way that they could blame ‘the young people’. As the intense trailer states: "When 17,000 people's texts and emails get leaked, people get really weird." At the centre of the story are high school BFFs Lily (Odessa Young), Bex (Hari Nef), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), and Em (Abra). Your typically beautiful ‘young people’, they spend their days sexting, drinking, and generally doing things they probably shouldn’t - but hey, we’ve all been there, right? When the hacks start happening, some terrible things follow, but it’s not until the biggy hack - the one which reveals the deepest, darkest secrets of half the town - happens that things get really fucked up. And I mean, really fucked up.
As Lily states: "Who sees a naked photo of a girl and their first thought is 'Yo, I gotta kill this girl'? Way more people than you think." While technology is the instigator for the destruction, which is unleashed in the days following the hack, Assassination Nation is really about any number of political and social issues facing young people today. From slut shaming and homophobia, to the dangers of mob mentality and the fight for Trans equality, it’s hard to think of a film which is more of its time than Assassination Nation. This movie takes a good, long, hard look at the world and - spoilers - it doesn’t like what it sees. But the main criticism the movie heaps on the world of today, is its tendency to blame the innocent.
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You’d think the adults of Salem (yeah, that’s what the town is called. Get it?) would turn on each other when it’s revealed that there are adulterers, abusers, and liars living among them - and we do see some of that to start with - but once everything goes to shit and normal behaviour gets thrown out the window, it’s the younger generation, and especially the young girls, who are targeted in the wake of the hack. Well, it’s their fault, right? The hack wouldn’t have happened with technology, and it’s those bloody Millennials who are always on their phones, posting pictures, and taking selfies... never mind the fact that some of those questionable nudes were found on the phones of adults. Plus, the hacker is undoubtedly a young person because no one over the age of 30 would know how to do this. This is how Salem very easily finds itself in the middle of a generational war, with parent turning on child and everyone going full-on Purge mad.
While the conclusion strays into disbelief and predictability somewhat, as the four teenagers defend themselves Kill Bill-style armed with machetes and machine guns, this doesn’t detract from the powerful message of the movie as a whole. Violent, bloody, intensely political, and generally very disturbing to watch at times, Assassination Nation is a young generation's fuck you to the world they're living in, and it will no doubt resonate with many. If you’ve ever taken issue with the message that Millennials are the problem when it was previous generations who crashed the housing market, fucked the environment, and put a celebrity businessman in the White House, then this is the movie for you. And if you like a disturbing amount of blood and violence too, then you won’t go far wrong either.
Assassination Nation is in US theatres now and will open in the UK on November 23, 2018.