Breaking News


Assassination Nation 2018

Assassination Nation

Assassination Nation

As film industry reviewers, we say Assassination Nation is one of our non-favorite movies. Please VOTE!

Assassination Nation is favorite or unfavorite?

You asked for it, America.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this feature film!

About the Assassination Nation 💬

  • It's blood red for a reason.

Mass hysteria, shaming, trolling, false accusations, scapegoating, hypocrisy, mob mentality, bloodlust. Those were the ingredients for a lethal cocktail 326 years ago in the town of Salem, site of colonial America's notorious Witch Trials, which left twenty people dead.

  • Can you handle it, America?

This is a thousand percent a true story about how the quiet, all-American town of Salem absolutely lost its mind. High school senior Lily Colson (Odessa Young) and her three best friends live in a world of selfies, emojis, snaps, and sexts. But when their town of Salem is besieged by a massive data hack, resulting in half the citizens' private info spewed into the public view, the community descends into anarchy. Lily is targeted after being falsely blamed for the hack - and bands together with her friends to survive a long, blood-soaked night.


''I know this movie is angry and shocking and scary,'' Levinson says, ''but so is the world right now. This film is about who we are as a nation - how our collective lust for entertainment, humiliation, and violence has superseded our sense of self-preservation.''

The average American teen spends eleven hours a day on the internet. According to researchers, the more time teens spend on social media, the less happy they are. The paradox is that to avoid social media is to feel marginalized and alone, everything teenagers are eternally been desperate to avoid.

For an Insta-savvy teen like Lily (Odessa Young), there is no other path to selfhood than through extreme cultural overwhelm. That is why Levinson dared to open ASSASSINATION NATION with such a provocative bomb blast - the movie's very own Trigger Warning, warning the audience of what lies in store: bullying, classism, death, drinking, drug use, sexual content, toxic masculinity, homophobia, transphobia, guns, nationalism, racism, kidnapping, the male gaze, sexism, swearing, torture, violence, gore, weapons and fragile male egos.

The Trigger Warning serves also like Lily's realm of the senses, the only world she's ever known. Raised on smartphone, Lily has never known a life without the peer pressure-cooker of social media. She has never known an absence of the potential for being shamed in the most permanent way.

All of this swirled in Levinson's head as he was working on the script for the film, not least of all because he and his wife were expecting their first child.

He explains, ''I was asking myself: 'What kind of world am I bringing this person into?' I was thinking about how hard it is now to be young when every minor mistake you make is documented forever. Every awkward hookup, every bad photo, every intimate text exchange becomes ammunition for shame.''

Shame became the powerful emotion that resonated most for Levinson as he was brainstorming a story about a small town under siege. The attack would not come from an outside force but instead a particularly modern terror: the anonymous hack.

As he wrote, Levinson saw the film in his mind, with its three-way screens, candied colors and references to teen comedies and gory revenge flicks. Yes, he also saw the potential to defy genre rules. ''How could I make a film that emulated the emotional volatility of the internet?'' he asked himself. ''How can I make the internet the genre?''

With that pique of ambition, Levinson wrote the script at a breakneck pace in three and half weeks. ''Once I saw that these four best friends were going to unite and fight back, the movie just poured out of me.''

Of course, by setting his movie in a fictionalized town by the name of Salem, he implies a link to the mother of all social overreactions: The Salem Witch Trials, that grotesque episode of moral panic in 1692 that lead to deaths of twenty people. ''There's a parallel, insomuch as it's a town that lost its mind and targeted innocent people, but I mostly saw Salem as just a heartland suburb,'' says Levinson, adding: ''There's a Salem everywhere in America.''


In conceiving of the story, Levinson made a decision to conjure the voice of 18-year-old Lily, who refuses to take the blame for the calamitous hack. And indeed, fights back with a fierce, focused sense of action and aggression.

''Japanese Sukeban films were a major influence for me'' the director says. ''It's one of the few sub-genres where young women have had permission to be angry.''

Sukeban (or ''girl boss'' films) emerged in the 1970s and 80s and bloomed into its own genre of comic books, films, and TV series - presenting rebel girls in dyed hair and school uniforms who were also deadly fighters against injustice.

As particular influences, Levinson cites the Sukeban movies Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972), the Stray Cat Boss series (1970) and Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess (1971), the girl-gang film which Levinson pays homage with the shiny red trench coats of his four heroines.

''What I loved so much about those films was their full embrace of teenage anger,'' he says. ''But at the same time there's a real theatricality to them, which is rare and it's something I wanted to bridge: the very real sources of anger and the fantasy of where these girls can take that anger.''

Actress Hari Nef, who plays Lily's friend Bex, explains why Levinson's approach intrigued her. ''At first, I thought, here's a white, straight, cisgendered thirtysomething man trying to write an edgy film about teen girls,'' she says. ''But instead, I found what he wrote felt remarkably true. Yes, I had a lot of questions, but Sam opened the door to them from day one. He wanted our input.''

Odessa Young agrees. ''I was blown away by Sam's foresight,'' the actress says. ''On the page, it's the story of teen girls fighting their town, but the more you look, the more you can see how much modern cultural machinery is working against them. I love that they fight back against it all.''

Though it was written before the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, the film nonetheless resonated by imbuing its female characters with agency and treating them with respect. From the start, Levinson set very clear ground rules. There was to be no nudity, no external objectification, and very little actual sex.

''Since one of the themes of the film is exploitation, I didn't want to give people that lens to look through,'' he says. ''I wanted to acknowledge that the internet has changed how we talk about sex and how it's coarsened things. That said, if you had four young guys talking as these girls do no one would be shocked by the language or find it taboo.''

Levinson also points out that Lily isn't quite who she makes herself out to be online or in her salacious selfies. ''I think the internet has split everyone into two versions of themselves - the person you are and the persona you project. What becomes tricky is reconciling the two.''

No matter how unhinged things get in Salem, the bottom line for Levinson was keeping the foursome, the hazards they have to navigate, and their friendship palpably real. ''I wanted to create four girls who were human, messy and make mistakes,'' he says. ''But I also wanted to make them heroes who get to rewrite their story in their own way, to give them the chance to carve out a different reality.''


In addition to the Japanese girl-gang Sukeban films of the 1970s, the DNA of ASSASSINATION NATION is bursting with cinematic inspirations.

As cinephiles might enjoy tracing the film's visual influences and cultural references, for Levinson they were simply part of reflecting the world as we approach it today - through a dizzying lens of visual influences and cultural references.

''I had this vision of Valley of the Dolls meets Wong Kar Wai,'' says Levinson, referring to the kinetic glam of the late 1960s classic of suburbia and the Hong Kong filmmaker renown for his lush revieries and dreamlike camerawork. ''But then our cinematographer Marcell Rév came aboard and took it to a whole other level.''

Rév is best known the stunning photography for Kornel Mondruzco's innovative White God, about a canine uprising. Rév and Levinson discussed a sprawling range of influences.

A jumping off point for both was the work of Petra Collins, a 25-year-old Canadian photographer who has shaken up the art world with her glowingly warm photos of teen girls. Collins' portraits offer an emotional, empathetic alternative to the controlling male gaze that has long dominated art and film.

From there, the duo talked about the rotating colors of Jean-Luc Godard's 1963 movie-within-a-movie Contempt (Le Mépris) and the triptychs utilized by cinematic pioneer Abel Gance in his 1927 epic Napoleon. ''We loved the idea of using triptychs but with the same aspect ratio as an iPhone,'' notes Levinson. ''It's both paying homage to Gance and to the digital age while feeling worthy of a theatrical experience.''

In terms of film influences, Levinson also includes Vincent Minnelli's Cinemascope classic Some Came Running (1958), Brian De Palma's teen rage classic Carrie (1976) and John Carpenter's The Fog (1980) and Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). Levinson also rewatched three films that look at the shifting role of how we've mediated our lives since the advent of mass communications: Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole (1951), Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd (1957) and Sidney Lumet's Network (1976).

The influences stretch beyond cinema as well. In the opening moments of ASSASSINATION NATION, Lily quotes an author who once said that ''Ten percent of people are cruel, ten percent are merciful, and the remaining eighty percent can be swung in either direction.'' That author was the famed social critic Susan Sontag, who was remarking about the lessons she took from the Holocaust.

Levinson notes that Sontag's 1977 essay collection On Photography, which explores how ubiquitous imagery forever changed humanity into a society of witnesses, was on his mind as he wrote the script. ''I was very interested in her idea that we've become a world of voyeurs, watching passively in the face of tragedies and emergencies,'' he says. ''As for the ten percent quote, I wrote it on a note card years ago. I've hoped the percentages weren't so frightening, but honestly who am I to argue with Susan Sontag?''


To play the film's primary scapegoat and heroine, Levinson decided to take a risk of his own. He wanted for the role an actress that audiences had not yet tagged with any labels or perceptions. After a long search, he came across 19-year-old Odessa Young, an Australian who garnered an Australian Academy Award for her lead performance in 2015's The Daughter.

Levinson remarks, ''What I saw in Odessa was a mischievousness mixed with wise confidence. That was Lily to me. The more we talked, the more I knew she was Lily. Her face is so open, you can see right through to her emotions. And she was able to tap into a slight kind of madness that is enthralling and so right for Lily.''

From the cheeky dialogue to the frank sexuality to the turnabout in the second half of the film that transforms Lily into a teenage avenger, Young knew the role would be a major test.

''To be honest, when I read the script, I was terrified by it,'' she says. ''It was so daring, so dramatic and it was unlike anything else I've read or seen. Even though it has so many huge ideas, Sam brings this very entertaining quality so it doesn't get bogged down in those ideas. It was fun, thrilling read.''

Young notes that although Lily's life is quite different from her own, she still felt a connection to her character. ''I didn't grow up in an American small town or was so heavily influenced by social media culture, but what I did relate to in her was this very universal sense of a teenage girl who has been told her entire life that she is going to be judged. The vitriol that she goes through is so confronting that it scared me. But I think the basis of it is very important to talk about.''

To that point, Young comments on the film's arresting approach to the complexities of sexuality in a sex-drenched world of imagery. ''I love that Sam makes poignant observations about teen sexuality in today's world - but also that he has just one sex scene in the film, and that’s in silhouette. The film breaks the social stigma that still surrounds women talking about pleasure in the same way men do. But for all the ways Lily tries to own her sexuality, I also wanted to get to the idea that she is just really confused by all the social rules of love and sex.''

One of the most challenging scenes for Young was the intense argument between Lily and her boyfriend Mark (Bill Skarsgård). ''I've been lucky in my life to have never have experienced that kind of a power struggle,'' she says. ''So I was just reacting in the moment because it felt so new and that's how Lily feels also. She's never seen these kinds of demons come out before. And Bill is such an incredible actor. That's equally true of Joel McHale. He was wonderful to work within a really challenging scene.''

It all built up to the final scenes in which Lily finds her power. ''We'd been put through so much in first part of the movie and we were ready for a reckoning,'' she says with a laugh. ''It felt like it was time to go all out, tooth-and-nail. But even in those scenes, the conversations with Sam never stopped. The amount of thought and discussion that went into this movie was very important to all of us. That's part of what it makes it feel so special.''


To play Lily's closest friend Bex, whose peril mounts as Salem implodes, Levinson cast Hari Nef, an actress, model, and writer best known for her role as Tante Gittel, a trans woman in 1930s Berlin, seen in flashbacks in the Emmy Award-winning Amazon series Transparent.

Levinson had expected it would take some time to find the right person for the challenging role, but Nef ended his search before it had even begun. ''I remember so clearly the day Hari came in to read,'' the director recalls. ''There was something so deep and real and funny about her - and she was able to hit about 9 notes all at once.''

Nef was indeed drawn to Bex, but also to the ambitiousness of the entire piece. ''Someone described Sam to me as having a go-for-the-jugular quality and I felt that in his work,'' she says. '''The script had a real empathy for what it's like to a be a young woman at this moment in time. I also loved the black humor of it, the way Sam dares to laugh at the people and ideas in the world that are violent and weak, which I believe is the best way to reckon with those things. The script walked a really compelling tightrope - between humor and despair, reality and fantasy, optimism and nihilism - without losing the balance.''

Levinson's research also charmed her. ''Included with the script when I first got it was a Tumblr with an incredible array of reference images. Sam had absolutely immersed himself in teen girl Tumblr and this whole soft-grunge aesthetic. It was incredible to see.''

Most of all, Bex hit Nef on a personal, emotional level as a young transwoman who had wrestled with similar things that Nef herself had gone through. ''I feel very protective of Bex and also in awe of her. She's the way I wish I had been in high school. She allows herself to be very vulnerable and she understands herself in a way that is really impressive at that age.''

Nef was exhilarated by Levinson's dedication to developing the character. ''That's how it should be when a man is writing a woman,'' she notes. ''Sam is an amazing artist but there were things I shared with him specifically to Bex and creating a context for her. The warmth and safety that Sam created on set allowed us all to feel really comfortable not only with him but with how the camera was going to approach us as women.''

As to what makes Lily and Bex so close, Nef observes: ''I think Bex understands the yearning that lies at the core of Lily, which Lily doesn't show the world. They have that ability to cut through each other's veneers. I see them as having been childhood friends. But in high school, suddenly you are each testing out new versions of yourself - dressing a certain way, listening to certain music - even if a part of you is still the same and your friends see that. With all that is happening in the film, I think the truth of their friendship is what makes it feel timeless.''

Odessa Young has nothing but praise for Nef as a co-star and a friend. ''Hari is an inspiration professionally but beyond that, we connected very deeply as people. Hopefully what comes across is a tenderness and a lack of judgment between Lily and Bex. I love that they do butt heads because I think it's exciting to see a female friendship on the screen that has conflict yet comes from a deep well of love.''

Though this is her first major film role, Nef was thrown right into the thick of things with scenes of intense fear and danger. ''I did most of my own stunts,'' she admits with a note of pride, ''but I think the harder scenes for me were the more subtle ones. When Bex is being threatened, she checks out, because the reality is too horrible for her to experience in her body. That's what a lot of people who suffer abuse go through. She does her best to project herself somewhere else in those scenes and so I also went somewhere else in my mind.''

She cites as her most challenging scenes the ones opposite actor Danny Ramirez, who plays a handsome footballer named Danny, who engages in a secret romance with Bex. ''Those were the scenes that get to this primal desire of Bex to be seen and be loved for who she is and how she is,'' Nef says. ''I wanted to get that tug of war between the elation of being into somebody and that terrible, crushing feeling of being rejected. That's something all of us have gone through.''


The entire casting process was as meticulous as the film's design. Says producer Turen: ''We used the tremendous talents of casting director Mary Vernieu and took our time finding exactly who was right for each role. Sam was determined to find people you might not have seen before or seen this way before.''

Rounding out the main foursome are two young social media stars. R&B singer Abra, who got her start on YouTube, makes her feature film debut as Em, while cover model, social media entrepreneur and rising actor Suki Waterhouse plays Sarah. Along with Young and Nef, they embodied an unwavering bond that challenges the way female teen friendships are typically depicted on-screen.

''I'd seen some footage of Abra and I felt she had a really raw quality combined with sweetness,'' says Levinson. ''When we got her on tape, her tremendous charisma and potential were clear. And Suki has that manic playfulness I was looking for in Sarah. I was especially excited to see how all four of the actresses played off one another and pushed each other to get better and better. They became a girl gang of their own.''

Says Young: ''Sam had a hunch we'd all get along and his hunch proved so right. We had so much fun together. But I think that was part of Sam's strategy as well because out of that lightness comes a sense of truth.''

Also taking key roles are former Disney star and Instagram sensation Bella Thorne and Maude Apatow, recently seen in Chris Kelly's Other People and Peter Livolsi's The House of Tomorrow. ''With Bella, the opportunity to play with the pre-conceived nature people have of her and turn that on its head was exciting,'' says Levinson. ''Bella was brilliant and a hundred percent game for anything. When Maude auditioned, what struck me most was her incredibly expressive eyes. She has this kind of Clara Bow silent film star presence.''

As the film's high-minded but compassionate school leader Principal Turrell, Levinson knew exactly who wanted. Colman Domingo, a Tony Award nominee for his towering performance in The Scottsboro Boys, is known to TV audiences as outbreak survivor Vincent Strand in Fear the Walking Dead. ''I thought right away of Colman while writing the part,'' Levinson explains. ''He's a genius and I knew without hesitation he’d take the role to a high level because that is what he does. He has such deep humanity to him.''

Domingo views Turrell as a man who tries to see his students as kids full of potential even as they might make crazy mistakes. ''I did feel a responsibility not so much to be a mentor as to a kind of provide a kind of grounding for all their energy,'' the veteran actor explains. ''That energy was so infectious, everyone was so bold and had something profound to say.''

The other male cast members include Bill Skarsgård, recently seen in the hit horror film IT, as Lily's first love Mark; Joel McHale (TV's Community) as Lily's secret acquaintance Nick; and Cody Christian (Teen Wolf) as school quarterback Johnny.

''Bill Skarsgård is so handsome but with an exciting unpredictability to him,'' remarks Levinson. ''Joel McHale has a quality where you can kind of project whatever motivations you feel onto him which was great for this character. And Cody came in with an incredible level of commitment and crafted a terrifying performance. The character of Johnny is the kind of person I spent my entire high school life afraid of.''

Assassination Nation Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Sam Levinson

Writing Credits

Sam Levinson


Odessa Young

Hari Nef

Suki Waterhouse


Joel McHale

Bella Thorne

Colman Domingo

Bill Skarsgård

Anika Noni Rose

Maude Apatow

Cody Christian

Danny Ramirez

Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Lukas Gage

Noah Galvin

Cullen Moss

Jeff Pope

John Daniel Evermore

Lucy Faust

Music by

Ian Hultquist

Cinematography by

Marcell Rév

Genres: Action, Comedy, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Country: United States

Assassination Nation Official Trailer

Our Choice

Unfavorite 👎 Unfavourite

It's Your Turn!

✋ This content is prepared by All Favorite Movies (AFM).

📣 You can take part in a vote, leave a comment and share in your social media to spread the world your favorite movies!

No comments: