Friday, September 29, 2023

Reality Review: Sydney Sweeney Thrills in Tina Satter’s Intensely Real Whistleblower Thriller - slantmagazine

Former enlisted U.S. Air Force member and NSA translator Reality Winner, who was arrested by federal authorities in 2017 for leaking classified information, has a fortuitous first name for a dramatist looking to interrogate both the state of our world and the lines between fiction and document, between script and transcript. Hence the straightforward title of Tina Satter’s Reality, the resonances of which hardly need further explanation.

The dialogue in Satter and James Paul Dallas’s screenplay is drawn directly from recordings the F.B.I. made as they executed a search warrant on Reality’s home in Augusta, Georgia, and interviewed the young woman about her illegal leak of intelligence on Russian interference in the 2016 election to online news publication The Intercept. This would seem to include all the awkward pauses, the uncomfortable small talk, and the sudden coughs and throat clears that become such unsettling features of Satter’s portrait of Winner’s ordeal.

In the title role, Sydney Sweeney commands the almost paranoiac gaze of Satter’s camera, gradually transforming from a relatively composed but visibly uncomfortable everywoman to someone barely keeping it together as her world falls apart around her. Or phrased differently, that world is redacted into incoherence, as blacked-out portions of the F.B.I. transcript increasingly manifest themselves on screen as sudden silence between the characters.


Confronted by two F.B.I. agents (Josh Hamilton and...

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