Ben Oliver

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Strip Search

There is a difference between disloyalty and dissent.
24 January 2024

An American woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is detained in China, and a Saudi man (Bruno Lasta) is detained in America. The two cases are unrelated, but both are subjected to an intense interrogation and cavity search. Ken Leung and Glenn Close also star.

As you might expect from the director of 12 Angry Men this is a script-heavy play, and interestingly it relies on a gimmick where both interrogation scenes follow the exact same script down to the last word.

It’s not difficult to see the potential of the idea as a piece of political commentary but for 85-minutes the concept starts to hamstring the actual impact of the film. At times it feels contrived just so that the mirror-image script can work, and at other times it’s just plain tedious watching the same scene again just with different characters.

The rest of the film shows clips of US presidents defending their actions, along with the affected friends and family of the detainees. There’s a righteous indignation which isn’t entirely misplaced but it reminds me of a time when Hollywood thought it was the answer to the world’s problems, and 20 years later it all looks really ham-fisted and idealistic.

An interesting but flawed screenplay.