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A 19-year-old girl prepares to become a suicide bomber in Times Square. She speaks with a nondescript American accent, and it's impossible to pinpoint her ethnicity. We never learn why she made her decision -- she has made it already. We don't know whom she represents, what she believes in - we only know she believes it absolutely. Written by
When Hannah Arendt coined the expression "the banality of evil," surely she must have had something like "Day Night Day Night" in mind. With chilling detachment, this brilliant and terrifying film chronicles the last 48 hours in the life of a potential suicide bomber. It is a topic rife with all sorts of potential pitfalls, both political and cinematic, yet the movie succeeds as a work of art because it never resorts to sensationalism or exploitation to get its point across.
Filmmaker Julia Loktey has deliberately eliminated any back story that might explain why a beautiful young girl like "Leah" would be willing to perform an action as inconceivable and incomprehensible as the one she has planned here. The whys and the wherefores are really of little concern to Loktey. Instead, she has chosen to concentrate on the almost strikingly banal, step-by-step process "Leah" must go through to complete the deed. Indeed, it's amazing how, through context alone, even the most mundane of actions - brushing one's teeth, taking a bath, clipping one's toenails - can suddenly become imbued with the most terrifying significance and sense of foreboding. It's almost as if "Leah" is trying to hold onto a sense of normalcy for as long as she can, savoring the minor pleasures of life that she knows she will never experience again. In fact, in the stunning final half hour of the film, as "Leah" roams around the streets of New York City trying to summon up the courage to fulfill her mission, she begins to cling more and more to the simple joys of life - a mustard-covered pretzel, a candy apple - before taking that final plunge into the abyss. What's particularly disturbing is how unfailingly sweet and polite "Leah" is to the people around her - be they the common pedestrians or storekeepers who could easily become her victims, or the masked men who calmly, almost apologetically, feed her instructions on what she is to do when the fateful moment arrives. The scene in which they dress "Leah" up in terrorist garb and methodically "direct" her for a video that will be released after her death is one of the most chilling in the entire film.
Luisa Williams, who is never off camera for a single moment in the film, delivers an astonishing tour-de-force performance that is guaranteed to leave the audience stunned into silence. With very little in the way of dialogue to work with, Williams is forced to rely almost exclusively on facial expression and body language to convey a wealth of emotion. The incongruity between the character's sweet personality and demeanor and the horrific act of violence she is about to commit throws us completely off balance and makes us call into question our own perception of the world and the way it works.
Loktey employs documentary-style realism to tell her story, using her camera to record, almost as a dispassionate observer, the events as they unfold in the course of that 48-hour period.
"Day Night Day Night" contains more nerve-wracking suspense than a boatload of standard thrillers, yet it is a suspense that is honestly earned, for Loktey never stoops to implausible timing or hokey contrivance to create her effect. This is the stuff of real life - with all its attendant unpredictability and ironies - unfolding before us. We are forever focused on this young lady, who remains a fascinating and terrifying enigma throughout the entire hour-and-a-half that we spend with her.
Stated simply, "Day Night Day Night" is one of the most riveting and important releases of 2007.
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