|Screenplay By||Tina Satter and James Paul Dallas|
|Based On||“Is This a Room” by Tina Satter|
|Date Released (Max )||May 29, 2023|
|Duration||1 hr, 22 minutes|
|Reality Winner||Sydney Sweeney|
|Agent Taylor||Marchánt Davis|
|Agent Garrick||Josh Hamilton|
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Tina Satter’s “Reality” depicts the FBI interrogation of 25-year-old Reality Winner, a hired government translator with access to classified documents. Tina Satter initially wrote the play based on the actual FBI interrogation transcripts of this news story that broke in 2017. Winner was charged and convicted for releasing government information to the media. The information was an intelligence report about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Winner is currently serving a 5-year sentence, the longest documented sentence for her crime. Yet Satter’s film isn’t interested in the outcome or explanation why, but how Winner must have felt within the moment.
“Reality” is a claustrophobic nightmare that conveys a theoretical fear for many: what if the FBI suddenly showed up on your doorstep ready to question you, search your house, and cuff you? For Reality Winner (Sydney Sweeney), that possibility quickly became a reality and changed her life within the blink of an eye. “Reality” takes place more or less in real-time as two FBI agents (Marchánt Davis and Josh Hamilton) take turns questioning her for two hours. The film wastes no time immersing the viewer into Reality’s situation, her body, her mind, and the increasing dread and knowledge that she’s alone and trapped.
“Reality” may first seem like an unfortunately vague title, but the film consistently emphasizes that this surreal, horrific entrapment of people happens every day. Satter’s direction doesn’t pass judgment or praise on Winner’s actions. But through extreme close-ups, expert blocking, and Sweeney’s magnificent ability to be a ticking time bomb, “Reality” creates empathy for not just Winner but anyone whose life drastically changed over a reckless choice in the past.
Things To Note
Why Is “Reality” Rated TV-MA
- Dialogue: A few mild instances.
- Violence: N/A
- Sexual Content: N/A
- Miscellaneous: While there’s no clear reason why “Reality” received a TV-MA rating, it covers a mature topic and shows increasing emotional distress.
Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.
A young, ambitious Air Force linguist who leaks classified information after frustration and disapproval of her government work. While Reality is a 25-year-old woman, she’s still a young person navigating the world and unsure of what to do when confronting an entity larger than herself.
Agent Taylor and Agent Garrick
Two FBI agents who take turns being supportive and more aggressive with Reality. They both claim to empathize with Reality’s situation, but their kind demeanor slowly and subtly becomes a more direct and blunt display of power over her.
Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)
Notable Performances or Moments
The film has a small cast with sparse and bare settings, and the camera stays tightly on Sidney Sweeney in most shots. Sweeney gives a career-best performance as Reality Winner, with an unflinching and raw portrayal of confusion, fear, and regret. As Reality’s world is literally taken apart in under two hours, Sweeney shows the horrific helplessness anyone would have in this situation.
Masterful Tight Close-Ups and Blocking Create Endless Tension
Tina Satter’s directorial debut conveys a firm grasp of the material and the viewer through unnerving tension. The close-ups of wide eyes and uncanny lingering smiles, the blocking of FBI agents coming in and out of focus like ghoulish apparitions, and the inter-splicing of actual FBI photos and documents serve as sobering reminders that reality can be more terrifying than fiction.
Terrific Performances from Sweeney, Davis, and Hamilton
While the actual story is readily available, and most viewers will watch this knowing the outcome, the power dynamic between Sweeney, Davis, and Hamilton is riveting because no one is ever fully honest, and everyone is aware of this dishonesty. Davis and Hamilton play FBI agents who may smile and offer comfort to Sweeney’s Winner, yet their presence is menacing. The viewer is left to interpret whether these people ever had empathy for one another or saw each other as monsters, and “Reality” engages us in asking if we feel the same.
Innovative Yet Honest Interpretation of a True Event
Reality Winner’s story is a fascinating look into the U.S. government, yet complicated to explain. Even when the viewer may be lost in the details and jargon of Winner’s work, we know what’s coming is bad. Like Reality, the viewer is lost, anticipating violence, seizure, and loss at any moment. “Reality” presents a trainwreck we can’t look away from, and as much as it shows what a real FBI raid may look like in the 21st century, the real fear is the unknown future it presents for Reality and the people as information seekers.
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