Sweeney Whistleblower Thriller Is A Chilling Minimalist Train

Actuality begins in a dimly lit workplace, flat display televisions adorning the partitions as Fox Information performs footage of former FBI director James Comey whereas reporting on his firing by Donald Trump. Later, Actuality Winner (Sydney Sweeney) will cite the incessant drone of Fox Information as one of many causes for her sending categorized paperwork about Russian interference within the 2016 election to The Intercept. It is a direct quote, as is your entire script. Based mostly on the play Is This A Room by Tina Satter, who additionally directs in her function debut, Actuality is a chilling and scientific have a look at the surveillance state and a fraught time for america as a complete, with a transformative efficiency from Sweeney because the title whistleblower.


Actuality takes place in actual time over the course of 83 minutes and the movie makes it instantly clear that it’s drawing from the transcript of conversations between Actuality Winner and FBI Brokers R. Wallace Taylor (a stoic Marchant Davis) and Justin C. Garrick (an unsettling Josh Hamilton). Realty hardly ever deviates from its set course. As a substitute, it lingers with Actuality in entrance of her Augusta, Georgia residence earlier than it follows her into an unfurnished white room the place she stands towards a wall whereas she is interrogated. There are transient asides — Actuality’s life within the workplace is proven and Satter additionally interjects with photographs from the actual Actuality’s Instagram profile to corroborate a few of the issues she says.

Sydney Sweeney in Actuality. 

Apart from these interjections, Actuality is stone-cold in its stillness, an unnerving rating punctuating the background and amping up the anxiousness. Satter’s solely different prospers are transient moments the place the transcript is redacted and Actuality herself glitches out of existence. The primary time this occurs is stunning — till that time, Actuality has been grounded fairly firmly in the actual. This contact, although, appears to say immediately what the movie can’t: the menace looming over Actuality is sort of actual and, by the tip of the movie, she can be in handcuffs and on her method to serving a sentence in jail. The federal government will make her disappear a method or one other.

America jail system is menace sufficient, however Actuality ensures {that a} feeling of quiet menace lingers. It performs nearly like a criminal offense thriller the place police are approaching a scene and violence may escape at any second. The menace is not aimed on the police this time, although. FBI brokers — all males, all looming over Actuality in stature, standing, and [blank] — populate the display whereas Sweeney appears on each numb and terrified. The lads stand in her bed room, adorned with pink curtains, leafing by journals and joking in regards to the animals she so clearly cares about. The FBI is just not being brazenly threatening, however they do not must be. Their mere presence is a menace in and of itself, their invasion of Actuality’s residence an act of violence that Sweeney and Satter painting with a nimbleness that’s so mild it may nearly be missed if it weren’t so blatantly horrifying.


Sweeney — most identified for her different HBO position as queen of mess Cassie on Euphoria — is transformative right here. She performs Actuality’s rising anxiousness in such a method that it seeps from the display and permits the dread to sink in deeply. Her eyes dart round as black SUVs encompass her yard, as her canine barks exterior for its proprietor, because the sluggish realization that she will not be capable to get out of this dawns on her. It is a difficult efficiency. A lot of it’s primarily based on the precise particular person being portrayed, however Sweeney proves greater than succesful, an thrilling flip for many who cannot wait to see her exterior the confines of her Euphoria position and in additional nuanced territory.

Finally, Actuality is an easy movie. Save for just a few touches, there are not any large swings, no stretches of the reality. Satter blends documentary and narrative in a method that shines a light-weight on how America tells tales about itself and the counter-narratives that come up from its want to guard itself. The movie ends with just a few title playing cards that reveal Winner’s jail sentence and take purpose at The Intercept for its failure to guard its supply. It additionally makes positive to focus on the truth that, mere days after Actuality was taken into custody, authorities officers had been brazenly discussing the contents of the paperwork that she had leaked. There isn’t a justice within the therapy Actuality acquired. Satter is aware of it, Sweeney is aware of it, and Actuality is aware of it. There was simply nothing Winner may do about it when up towards a monster attempting to guard itself.

Actuality [premieres on HBO and Max on May 26. The film is rated TV-MA is 83 minutes long.

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