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"Black Mirror" White Bear (2013)

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140 out of 155 people found the following review useful:

Criminal [*RECORD].

9/10
Author: tyler-and-jack from Edinburgh.
19 February 2013

Charlie Brooker based this particular episode of Black Mirror on an incident that occurred during the filming of Dead Set. While a particularly nasty moment was being filmed, he witnessed some people recording the scene on their mobile phones and found that scarier than what was actually being put into the programme.

How did that influence this episode then? Well, that becomes pretty obvious when the central character (Toni, played by Lenora Crichlow) wanders out of her house, with no memory and a lot of questions, and finds many people hovering near her to record her on their mobile phones. Then someone gets out of a van and tries to shoot her. From that moment on, things just keep getting more surreal and more horrifying for Toni, even as she's helped by Jem (Tuppence Middleton) and finds out a bit more about her situation.

Benefiting from a superb central performance from Crichlow, "White Bear" also features good work from Middleton and Michael Smiley, both playing people dragged into the middle of the proceedings. The writing is strong, of course (I can't think of a non-continuous show written this well since The Twilight Zone), and the direction by Carl Tibbetts is just fine.

Once again, however, this is all about the strength of the ideas being put forward for thought and/or discussion and this is where "White Bear" safely earns its place alongside every other episode of Black Mirror.

From the reviews and feedback I have read so far, it would seem that "White Bear" might end up being the most misunderstood of the Black Mirror episodes so far. Some people have felt satisfaction at the ending (don't worry, no spoilers here) and some people have commented that Brooker is clearly asking us to stop living our lives through screens and viewfinders. Only a few have mentioned the way in which the episode looks at mob mentality, heightened in the internet age to a terrifying degree, and the bloodlust for more and more "fitting" forms of punishment. There are also, of course, the usual questions asked about what people look for in their entertainment - from the gladiator battles of Rome to the humiliating rejections from The X Factor - but it could be argued that "White Bear" packs even more ideas and hot topics into its runtime than any of the preceding episodes.

If you've been watching every episode up to now then you'll know that the statement I've just made is no small feat. Yet another phenomenal episode of a phenomenal series.

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46 out of 79 people found the following review useful:

Nice concept but execution makes no sense

2/10
Author: Mike Jeynes
13 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the first of this series that we've watched, having liked all the last series (8/10). I also loved Dead Set (9/10), which the previous reviewer notes was part of this episode's inception.

Onto the review of this episode; I really didn't enjoy it and think that the finer detail within the concept was very flawed.

On the positive side it was well acted, atmospheric and had a good base concept.

On the negative side, the pre-reveal section I felt dragged on. I prefer the psychological aspects of this type of program, so I could do without the running and screaming for quite so long. The reveal section was nice; a good basic concept. However, after the reveal, that's where the concept completely fails (for me).

Essentially we have wiped this murderous woman's mind, then we torture her to get revenge as a society, for her her evil deeds.

That works if you do it once. Wipe her mind once, torture her, have the reveal, then let her suffer IN THE Knowledge of what she did for an undetermined period of time. If you want to run that concept out further, you can do and continue torturing her and the concept still works.

However, if you wipe her memory and do it again straight after the reveal, there's no extra suffering to this previously-evil woman, so you're effectively torturing her for your own amusement. By wiping her memory, you reduce her to a state of child like innocence, then torture her. Effectively you're no better than what they did in the first place.

I'm sure most people would say that's the point and that it's a social critique but to me at least, that completely fails as a lazy, sneery, flawed critique. Just because people film car crashes on their phones, doesn't mean they would actively participate in torture.

Case 1: Society is fundamentally good and wouldn't allow this sort of thing to happen. Case 2: Society has no morals. If you're setting this in an alternate world where humanity would enjoy torturing someone reduced to a child like state, then we effectively have no concept of morals and here is the key point: these moral-free people wouldn't care that these bad guys killed a child in the first place.

I'm sure some would say you can have a mid-way point where people have reduced morals. That works if you torture someone who has knowledge of what they did. The majority of people know the difference between doing that and torturing someone with no memory. They aren't the same thing.

To combat that problem, you could have the camera-holding zombie types only exposed to the murderer for a short time and enjoy it (so they aren't bombarded by her own emotional suffering) but have the people involved in the behind the scenes / acting roles showing signs of cracking under the incessant nature of the torture they're perpetuating. Maybe you have people show signs of not enjoying the end result of the concept, before moving on to the next murderer and forgetting that they have a moral problem with it.

So there you go, just my Tuppence, for what it's worth :)

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Punishment online

8/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
6 January 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Victoria Skillane (Lenora Crichlow) awakes dazed and confused on a chair in front of a television with a weird sign, pills spilled on the floor and bandage around her wrists. She walks around the house with amnesia and glimpses of a girl. She sees a picture of her, a man and the girl on a fireplace and she concludes she might be her daughter. She leaves the house and sees people watching and filming her passively. Out of the blue, a man with a rifle hunts her down and she runs under the view of the inhabitants. She meets a young woman called Jem (Tuppence Middleton) that explains to her that most of the population is controlled by a signal from the White Bear transmitted that transforms them into voyeurs. They run to a convenience store in a gas station and the hunter shots and kills Jem's friend Damien (Ian Bonar). They run to escape and a man called Baxter (Michael Smiley) stops a van and saves them from hunters. But the guy is a sadistic hunter but they succeed to flee. Jem explains that she intends to burn the White Bear to the ground and they drive to the facility. When they reach the place, Victoria learns secrets about her and the place where nothing is what seems to be.

"White Bear" is a film with a cruel and dark story of punishment online with a surprising plot point in the end. The truth about Victoria is absolutely unexpected. The story has criticism to the present lifestyle, with people not interacting with the others and passively watching the world through the screens. Further the population maybe tired of the present injustices in the legal system has created the perfect punishment. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): Not available.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Unalloyed irony and hypocrisy

8/10
Author: KFL from Bloomington, IN
1 October 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Funny how these two words don't seem to come up, at least in the comments and reviews I have read, yet they're what this episode is all about. Irony and hypocrisy.

Without wanting to say too much, although I've flagged this comment as containing a spoiler (first time I've used this function), the denouement makes clear that the many dozens--hundreds even! --of people involved in this project, are guilty of quite cruel hypocrisy--they are engaging in precisely the behavior that they claim to be helping to punish--and are part of a spectacle that is as ironic as can be imagined.

For this reason I've rated this episode fairly highly, although I don't believe the interests of verisimilitude have been served. I don't believe--and certainly don't want to believe-that any significant number of people could be so heartless, so utterly devoid of human empathy.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

S2: White Bear: Effective and chilling delivery of a solid piece of voyeurism, justice and the internet (SPOILERS)

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
1 February 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This second episode of the second season of Black Mirror has some common ground with the opening episode of the first season in its tone and themes. The plot here sees a young woman waking up in a house with no memory of what has gone before but knowing something is wrong – not least the symbol endlessly broadcast on her TV. Wandering outside she finds the other residents in the dead town are staring at her, filming her on their phones without speaking to her. Things take a darker turn when a man in a mask pulls up in a car, takes a shotgun from the trunk and advances on her. Fleeing she is rescued by a couple who don't seem to be in the stupor of the others and it is from these people that Victoria learns more of what has happened.

It is very hard not to spoil this story while talking about it so I will just go ahead and give up on that from the start. This is a great film which succeeds while also being a little bit messy and inconclusive – indeed I would say that this tumbling uncertainty is part of the appeal since the film works as many things at different stages. In the first sections it works as a really effective chiller and horror; the fear felt by Victoria is very well portrayed and the imagery of this nightmare world is very convincing and unsettling. While it works at this level the film also functions as a comment on the internet (some watch while the hunters just become hunters because they can get away with it) or a comment on the voyeuristic nature of the modern media and internet culture. Not a razor sharp comment perhaps, but one that works while partnered with the much stronger horror aspect.

At a later point the film flips things as we see that Victoria is not the innocent that we thought she was and that this is all some sort of game at her expense. This threw me well and this feeling of not being sure what was going on was quite satisfying and engaging. The horror theme continues but in a different way as the crowd of silent voyeurs becomes something much more sinister and violent as the themes of justice and mob-mentality are brought out. It is this odd mix that means the film isn't wholly successful and does tend to jump around thematically a bit too much, but it is also what works well. It gets over the hurdle and works partly because it flips the viewer so effectively from being on the side of the persecuted to later being forced to reluctantly take their place amongst the voyeurs. It is a nice flip that gives you a lot to think about (plot wise and theme wise) and in this way it also covers up the various plot holes it has at the same time.

Crichlow is great in the lead. Just as the previous Black Mirror film was carried by a very strong female lead, so too is this one. She is convincing throughout and her fear makes the early sections works while her pain makes the viewer's discomfort an effective part of the narrative later. Supporting turns from Smiley, Middleton and others are good but the film belongs to Crichlow and she really commits. Tibbetts' direction works all the angles well while Brooker's script may not be perfect but balances all the ideas as well as I guess they could have been done.

White Bear is another great piece of sci-fi satire. It may not have the emotional punch of the previous episode but it is thoughtful, unsettling and very effective. Just in case you needed one, it is another reason to love Charlie Brooker.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Best episode so far

9/10
Author: kelvinkelvin-39755
21 October 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Black Mirror is fantastic, if you are not watching it you are truly missing out on a fascinating experience.

Of all the episodes I've seen so far this was the best. It is a totally trip and hard at times to make out what is happening but hold on to the very end. This episode has such a great ending and payoff that you will be thinking about his one for days.

The acting by the lead is fantastic and when you reach the final end of the show you will feel so many emotions that will be twisted because of her performance and what has happened to her.

Sci-fi for true sci-fi lovers can't wait to see the next season of this on Netflix.

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Such a fan dance

3/10
Author: Smoot
22 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I get the feeling Charlie Brooker writes fast. Too fast in this case to be anything but sort of clever. The Black Mirror episodes that have worked, and they often do work, take the time to build character. But here we have a protagonist we never get to know. She literally doesn't even know herself. And what we do end up knowing about her is handed to us minutes before the credits. Like her, I'm not convinced she committed the crime, partly because we're not shown any evidence and partly because the people in charge seem more obsessed with their masturbatory act of revenge than they are with any real sense of justice.

She's supposedly being tortured in public, which I guess is a commentary on the state of empathy in our modern culture, though it's never explored. But she isn't even aware enough to be tortured. Mostly, she's just confused, led through a maze of random scenes of very little significance.

Meanwhile, everyone else in this world is elated to be extras in the torture maze. "What did you do today, honey?" "I stood in a tiny window of a stranger's apartment, filming a woman way down the street!" (By the way, surely in one of the dozens of reenactments the woman goes after one of the voyeurs, clawing their eyes out. How could that not happen at least once?)

The only thing that has to matter in this script, the emotional experience of a woman struggling to remember who she is and what she's done, before anything else can matter, is drowned in anxious distraction.

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Big ideas but very poor execution

4/10
Author: bouhbouh-20275 from France
3 December 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This episode is very well summarized in other reviews. I just wanted to add a point of view that hasn't been said yet.

As always in a black mirror episode, the message is highly relevant and says a lot about how the press and social media treats criminals and/or immoral people. We dehumanize them sometimes and feel no sorry for them, the phone is a step further to dehumanization as seeing her through the screens creates an invisible wall between her and the public. Some of you said that it wasn't enough of a punishment to erase her memory every night but the point is that revenge is not about the other. Revenge is about satisfying oneself. Here, society can take a satisfying revenge by letting her suffer every day so that different people can come and take part to the torture. This is actually quite brilliant and reminds of the eternal suffering of hell. But, as one of the reviews says, there should be several cases shown.

Despite that good idea I can sadly say that this was the worst episode I watched and I was also expecting a lot since the next episode I saw before that (Waldo) is excellent. It might not be an exaggeration to say that White Bear is composed of ca 80% of screaming, noisy breathing and running. If the wanted effect was to feel afraid for the main character well, it was a total fail. I just wanted her to shut up. Maybe the point is to make us feel as we are in the public. I felt highly uncomfortable of her attitude and the flashbacks that came out of nowhere with a short headache just to make us believe to the story of the transmitter that could interfiere with people and nourish the mystery about this hole situation. There where not only not informative but also came to disturb the action and are not realistic.

This episode is just TOO MUCH, they clearly overused some codes that can be effective if smaller proportions (like in other episodes) and, even if was not the most violent of all the episodes, I think it is unhealthy for my mind to see that kind of games on scream with so much overacted suffering.

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4 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Too much going on for one episode

6/10
Author: cbaranmelik from Istanbul, Turkey
26 October 2016

Some of the other reviews are sufficient enough in that they summarize the key points and the ideas that this episode was meant to provoke. Thus, I won't try to explain any of these ideas all of which are extensively thought/debate provoking. My criticism of this episode, however, is that the episode has too much going on in terms of messages. So many sources for awareness of these controversial ideas are put into this episode that all of them fall short of what they could truly accomplish. Some criticize the viewers of the episode for not understanding the messages; however, I don't think the viewers are at fault here. The episode tries to accomplish so much in just one short story line that it fails to strongly reach any of its goals.

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2 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Neat concept but details don't line up...

6/10
Author: earnhart84 from United States
2 November 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This review is for those who've already watched this episode.

The Big Twist is neat, but it seems like a lot of trouble to go through for one inmate. Is the entire White Bear facility for this one person? She's the only one we see.

And it's not much of a punishment, really, if you wipe her memory every time just to do the run-through again. She's experiencing a lifetime of stress but only remembering a single day of it at a time.

And who wrote this story for her to experience? What's the significance of it to her? Why would anyone do this? It doesn't punish the person very well and it's a totally random idea.

Also, why did her boyfriend have the White Bear logo tattoo'd on his neck? The story tells you it's a random tattoo he had that helped them identify him, but it's used throughout the story process and is even onstage during the Big Reveal, so it seems to be an integrated logo representing the prison or show itself.

This idea, to me, was better executed in The Running Man (book or movie) where inmates are fully aware of their situation and face death before a live studio audience.

Side note: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Hard Time" did the inverse of this episode. O'Brien has the memory of 20 years of prison implanted in his mind. Instead of having his memory wiped in order to relive one day, he's free to live his life but with the implanted memory of 20 years.

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