Reality Review: Sydney Sweeney Deserves an Oscar for Tense Docudrama

Almost six years ago, on June 3, 2017, Reality Winner, a former member of the US Air Force who is fluent in three Middle Eastern languages, parked her car in front of her home in Augusta, Georgia, only to be greeted by two FBI agents pulling up to her. driveway. There they inform Miss Winner that they have a search warrant on her premises, her phone, her car, and her person. Although everything is courteous, there is still a lot of tension; it feels like a time bomb is about to go off at any second. The tension only increases when three black SUVs pull up at Reality’s house to search her property further.


Why does all this happen to a young woman, you may ask? Well, if you don’t already know the story, Reality Winner worked for the NSA as a translator, where she leaked highly classified intelligence documents about Russian interference in the 2016 election to the press. from the government and mail it to a media outlet. Thus, Reality faced a prison sentence of five years and six months for violating the Espionage Act of 1917, the longest sentence for the unauthorized release of government information to the media.

Reality, an HBO Original Movie now streaming on Max, follows this true-life story and interrogation in a tension-filled event. The film is a word-for-word recreation of the Reality Winner interrogation, just like the stage play it is adapting. Audiences who haven’t heard the Reality Winner story may be a bit confused at some points in the film, however, in the end, Tina Satter successfully wraps up the film and goes through the minutiae to inform viewers why the FBI was behind Reality Winner. , and the repercussions of his crime.

We’ve seen countless movies and shows depicting real-life events and crimes, but few are as riveting, tense, or powerful as Tina Satter’s directorial debut, which cements Reality as one of the best.

Tina Satter’s flawless directorial debut

Tina Satter makes her directorial debut with Realityadapting his own play, Is This a Room: Reality Winner Verbatim Transcription, a word-for-word staging of the Reality Winner interrogation. The play was minimalist, deep, deeply tense, and Satter brings together everything that makes his play so punchy and edgy and unloads it all in this remarkable docudrama.

Reality is a short but incredibly impactful docudrama that will leave audiences exhausted. The unbearable tension of the film oozes off the screen and seeps into the audience, all united by the way Sydney Sweeney maintains that tension and endures it. While Emily Davis earned wide acclaim for her portrayal of Winner in the play, the cinematic structure really highlights the central performance and is unique to the story. It’s a jaw-dropping performance that’s sure to garner award-winning attention for her.

The fascinating performance of Sydney Sweeney

Reality - Sydney Sweeney
HBO movies

Sydney Sweeney leaps from the TV hit Euphoria and the white lotus to deliver an Oscar-worthy performance (even if this is technically a TV movie) as the Reality Winner. Through her dialogue, body language, and facial expressions, her anxiety seeps through the screen, but she also mesmerizes with a strange initial confidence.

Sweeney’s portrayal of Reality steers clear of the uncertain, hesitant words of the actual Reality from the transcript, and instead tries to play a coy, clever version of it, a decision that pays off. Reality understands why the FBI is here, but tries to divert suspicion from him, which can be seen in Sweeney’s performance. In the end, Sweeney’s confident Reality portrayal gives up and crumbles under the weight of his anxiety, and he begins to tell the FBI the truth in some of the best and most shocking displays of remorse and emotion in recent years – and that it’s all thanks to the acting powerhouse that is Sydney Sweeney.

The rest of the cast is equally great. Josh Hamilton gives an engaging performance as a bubbly and friendly FBI agent struggling to get his words out, and Marchánt Davis gave audiences an intimidating performance of a more conservative FBI agent. Granted, the cast list isn’t particularly large, but in a cast as small as this, each character manages to stand out. However, each performance is, almost by definition, overshadowed by the main character.

Related: Sydney Sweeney’s 8 Best Performances, Ranked

Unbearably tense atmosphere

Sydney Sweeney reality movie
HBO movies

Perhaps one of the biggest strengths of the movie is that Tina Satter doesn’t perceive her audience as stupid, and whether she knows the story or not, she will 100% believe that whatever crime the Reality Winner committed that brought the FBI’s attention to her door, she is undoubtedly guilty (whether you think the action should be punishable is another story). Satter immediately builds a relentless and intense atmosphere that never lets up. In fact, as the movie progresses, the audience will feel her heart rate increase.

Through the use of Paul Yee’s stunning yet unnerving cinematography, Nathan Micay’s soulful music, and Tina Satter’s minimalist staging, Reality is one of the most tension-filled movies of the past year. Cinematographer Paul Yee (joy ride the Stranger) is at his best, framing each scene in a way that heightens the suspense of the film.

Yee gives Reality a sense of isolation and lack of authority by framing her as much smaller than the FBI agents, as well as filming Reality in a single frame which isolates her, especially in interrogation scenes. Micay’s sprawling musical score touches your bloodstream, making the audience feel the same anxiety and suspense that Reality felt the very moment she pulled into her driveway.

Like his play, Satter opts for a more minimalist setting, highlighting the aforementioned interrogation scene. This sees Reality and two policemen interrogating in a plain white room with nothing on the walls and very little light coming through the windows. That basic description alone should make anyone tense, however, with all the elements of the movie stacked together, RealityThe buildup of uncomfortable anxiety is both admiring and deeply unbearable.

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