Director: Tina Satter
Stars: Sydney Sweeney, Josh Hamilton, Marchánt Davis
Theatre director Tina Satter’s debut, adapted from her stage play and based closely on real events, is an almost unbearably tense thriller. It’s 2018 and Reality Winner (Sweeney), a former Air Force intelligence officer turned translator contracted to the NSA, is returning from her yoga lesson to her small house in Georgia when she is doorstepped by two FBI agents – Agent Garrick (Hamilton) and Agent Taylor (Davis) – who reveal they have a warrant to search Reality’s house. Garrick is ingratiatingly perky and self-deprecating while the muscle-bound Taylor is quiet and imposing. Initially the questioning includes light-hearted banter about Reality’s rescue dog and her fitness regime, but a darker tone begins to seep in once they enter her house. Utilising dialogue lifted directly and exclusively from transcripts of the real incident, Satter gradually drip-feeds us information about what it is that Winner has actually been accused of (those unfamiliar with Winner’s story are advised to go in blind) and uses intermittent harsh static video buzzes where material has been redacted while making effective use of the claustrophobic closed places and the relative builds of Winner and her looming inquisitors. Jennifer Vecchiarello and Ron Dulin’s deft editing toys with our perception of time, ranging from a suitably staccato tetchiness to almost meditative passages such as when Reality observes a snail’s progress along the windowsill. It’s a nightmarish vision of capricious authoritarianism in which the course of one’s life can change suddenly, and boasts extraordinary performances from Sweeney as the young woman gradually crumbling under questioning, and Hamilton whose nice guy garrulousness belies something wilier and more sinister.
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