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Review of "The Interview" Starring James Franco & Seth Rogan

It’s hard to imagine a film pre-release period as problematic as the one that faced The Interview.  A hack might have at least proved manageable for Sony Pictures Entertainment, but that was just the tip of the iceberg in a much wider hack that spelled an utterly torrid 2014 for the company.  As for writer-director partnership of Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan ("This is the End", "Superbad"), they could only sit and watch as a series of unfortunate events that would disrupt the film's release.  What followed were terrorist threats from a hacker group that had supposed links to North Korea, a pulled theatrical release, resulting condemnation from the President, and a collective silence of opinion from the Hollywood elite. 

Sony’s withdrawal and Hollywood’s shuffling of feet was a sign that it found itself in uncertain territory.  Hollywood vs. Communist Russia used to be as simple and as inoffensive as a Rocky IV montage, but Hollywood vs. North Korea? Did anyone actually want to see it?  Was it even safe?  Was America prepared to poke fun at a notoriously unpredictable leader of a closed totalitarian state? In hindsight, America will say yes, but only because in hindsight they can see that the film and its reaction hasn’t - perhaps literally as well as metaphorically - blown up in their faces.  It’s impossible to gauge the reaction to the film by North Koreans, or indeed whether many North Koreans have even had access to it.  What might be more telling is America’s reaction if the roles were reversed: what would they make of a North Korean film that depicted the assassination attempt of President Obama? And if North Korea were the world’s most powerful democratic state, would they impose sanctions upon America if the US tried to disrupt its wide release?

I was originally going to cover the pre-release fiasco in a few sentences as a short preamble to the main review, but even I was surprised by my strength of feeling on the matter of the film’s relevance in a wider political context.  As a piece of standalone entertainment, it’s actually quite funny: it’s well paced with solid, memorable performances and – perhaps most surprisingly – boasts a script that remains very focused right until the end.  Neither erstwhile Oscar “presenter” James Franco nor Man-Child Seth Rogan are known for their critically acclaimed performances, but they do hold a film together that could so easily either slipped up in self-indulgence or jumped the shark all together.  But credit where credit’s due: it's fun and it's engaging.  And yet I still can’t shake the feeling that the film - and I've got my international relations head on now - is a little too dangerous for my liking.   

It’s at once a shame and not a shame that The Interview was part of this hack before its release.  Had it not be blighted (or, rather, highlighted) by hackers, it may have slipped harmlessly under the radar.  But I must admit: from the very fact that it has provoked a reaction in me – as a direct result of the circumstances of its release – means that the film, as a piece of political satire, has worked.  We can only cross our fingers and hope that Kim Jong-un and his henchmen don’t take exception to it. 


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