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DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT(director/writer: Julia Loktev; cinematographer: Benoit Debie; editors: Ms. Loktev/Michael Taylor; cast: Luisa Williams (She), Josh P. Weinstein (Commander), Gareth Saxe (Organizer), Nyambi Nyambi (Organizer), Frank Dattolo (Bombmaker), Annemarie Lawless (Bombmaker’s Assistant), Tschi-Hun Kim (Asian Driver), Richard Morant (Times Square Flirt); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Ms. Loktev/Melanie Judd/Jessica Levin; IFC First Take; 2006)
“In the end, we’re left just as much in the dark as we were in the beginning of the film as to what motivates such a young woman to give up her life.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This harrowing post-9/11 psychological voyeuristic drama is written and directed by the thirtysomething NYU grad Julia Loktev (“Moment of Impact”). It follows a young woman (Luisa Williams) who gets suited up by her masked handlers to be a suicide bomber and never states her reason why but says in a whisper to herself “Everybody dies. I have only one death. I want my death to be for you.” None of it is entertaining and I seriously doubt how authentic it is; but it’s eerily perverse as guerrilla theater, that is, if you ever cared to get a detailed look at how a woman suicide bomber gets prepped for such an insane mission and how she confronts her nagging anxieties about the mission.

The nameless frail green-eyed teenage girl, with an olive complexion, is met getting off a cross-country bus in Northern New Jersey by an Asian, who drives her to the hotel where she sleeps overnight and she’s dressed in the morning by her masked handlers in typical teenage garb of jeans and a sweater. On her back she carries a backpack loaded with a bomb and a tennis racket, receives a phony ID card and some last minute instructions. We next see her in daylight and then at nighttime (thereby the title, as the film is divided in half: the first part being getting prepped in the hotel and the second part the mission itself) walking the crowded streets of Manhattan to her destination of Times Square.

The Russian-born Loktev was inspired by an actual story of a young girl would-be suicide bomber of a fast-food restaurant in Moscow’s Red Square, whose mission was aborted either due to a malfunctioning trigger or a last-minute loss of nerve. The girl in question in the film has no clear ethnic background nor expresses any particular political or religious or personal reason for doing the mission.

In the end, we’re left just as much in the dark as we were in the beginning of the film as to what motivates such a young woman to give up her life. Despite Williams’ flawless captivating mostly mute performance and the film taking on a tense tone befitting the relevancy of the times, I can’t think of what I got from watching it that would make me say it was worth seeing. The ambitious film was too slow-going and not interesting enough to hold my attention. I was expecting something more fulfilling than a series of shaky-cam close-ups of a would-be terrorist plying herself with junk food while left on her own to do a man-sized job of terror.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”