Premiering his wicked and wild first feature Another Happy Day at Sundance seven years ago, writer/director Sam Levinson returns this year with another stylish and haunting feature, Assassination Nation, which takes on a number of timely topics.
A “thousand percent true story,” Levinson’s latest follows high school senior Lily (Odessa Young) and her crew of besties, whose lives are shaped by the digital age, expressing themselves through texts, posts, selfies and chats. A film about “the abuse and madness and craziness of being a young person today,” Assassination Nation really kicks off when a provocateur starts posting details from peoples’ private digital lives in the public forum, leading to a murderous “Category 5 sh*tstorm.”
“The main idea I was exploring is how we treat one another, and how the internet can at times sort of create this barrier in which empathy isn’t able to get through,” Levinson remarked at Deadline’s Sundance Studio, with stars Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, Abra and Bill Skarsgård alongside him. “I also wanted to deal with mob mentality and vigilantism, and how truth has become splintered.”
With Another Happy Day, Assassination Nation and The Wizard of Lies—which he co-wrote for father Barry Levinson—the younger Levinson has displayed an extraordinary ability when it comes to crafting complex female characters. In studio, this was something Levinson’s stars could attest to.
“I thought Sam was a woman when I first read the script,” Young said.
While Assassination Nation explores a lot of contemporary ideas and issues, at its core it is perhaps about rage. And what could be timelier than that?
“I think cinematically and from a storytelling point of view, if you want to tell story about rage and violence in 2018, you’re probably going to want to tell that story through a woman’s lens, with female characters,” Nef said. “Because nobody knows these things as ell, gender-wise, as women do.”
To view Deadline’s conversation with the Assassination Nation team, click above.
The Deadline Studio is presented by Hyundai. Special thanks to Calii Love.