Reality: Review

Reality: Review

Reality: Review

Turning a modern play into a movie is easier said than done. In a nutshell, stageplays are rooted in writing and performances, while movies are primarily a visual medium. While both have elements of all three, you have to deliver more than sharp writing and sympathetic performances to make the transition from the stage to the big screen (in the case of Reality, the small screen). While there are good examples, such as Closer, Doubt, and Incendies, there are outright disasters, like The Whale, August: Osage County, and Spinning Into Butter. But good news, Reality on HBO is one of the good ones and it deserves your full attention.

Co-written by Tina Satter and James Paul Dallas and directed by Satter (in her feature film directorial debut), Reality (based on Satter’s play Is This A Room) is a dramatic retelling of the FBI’s interrogation and eventual arrest of Reality Winner (played by Sydney Sweeney), ex-military and NSA translator who leaked unauthorized government information about Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election to the media in 2017.

The screenplay is adapted from the actual FBI interrogation transcript in real-time, so there’s an authenticity at this film’s root that’s also brought to life through the stellar performances of Sweeney, as well as Marchánt Davis and Josh Hamilton, who play federal agents Taylor and Garrick—respectively.

From the start, it grabs your attention with just a knock of a car window where we meet the characters. The roles are clear and precise, while the tension escalates with every conversation and interaction. The film is structured in three acts, while Satter seamlessly uses Reality’s house as a clever stage—as the film goes from outside of the house to inside of the house to the backroom of the house with a clear distinction of act breaks. In fact, it feels as riveting as it would be on the stage, while the movie feels more open at the beginning, but as it progresses, it gets more claustrophobic as we move within the house. 

Meanwhile, the key takeaways from Reality are its keen direction from Tina Satter and outstanding performance from Sweeney, who shines. Satter has a command of the material, while making the story cinematic with surreal close-ups, smart editing, and telling point-of-view shots that makes an audience as uncomfortable as the real-life events of the interrogation. In turn, Sweeney delivers a rangy performance that’s full of pathos that goes from “playing dumb” to funny to flirty and then to guilt and worry. It’s a perfect match of director and actor.

While the politics of the film might divide audiences (like most politics in America), Reality breaks through it with humanity, tension, and the search for the truth. If you have HBO (or the streaming service Max), then it’s definitely worth watching—especially for the reality of the situation.

Reality – in UK & Irish cinemas 2nd June

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Rudie Obias lives in Brooklyn, New York. He’s a writer and editor who is interested in cinema, pop culture, music, NBA basketball, science fiction, and web culture. His work can be found at IGN, Fandom, TV Guide, Metacritic, Yahoo!, Battleship Pretension, Mashable, Mental Floss, and of course, BRWC.


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