(director/writer: Tina Satter; screenwriters: James Paul Dallas/based on the stage play by Tina Satter; cinematographer: Paul Yee; editors: Jennifer Vecchiarello, Ron Dulin; music: Nathan Mikay; cast: Sydney Sweeney (Reality Leigh Winner), Josh Hamilton (Garrick), Marchánt Davis (Taylor); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Noah Stahl, Brad Becker-Parton, Riva Marker, Greg Nobile; HBO MAX; 2023)

“Upsetting whistleblower political film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tina Satter is the first-time feature film director and co-writer with James Paul Dallas in this upsetting whistleblower political film. Its true story is based on the FBI transcript of the whistleblower’s questioning by the tricky Feds. 

In 2017, the FBI raided a suburban Georgia modest house rented by NSA translator and former Air Force member, Reality Leigh Winner (Sydney Sweeney). In 2018, Winner was given a five-year jail sentence, the longest ever for releasing unauthorized government documents. Upset over a toxic work environment,  in which Fox News could be heard on TVs in the office around the clock and all her complaints were ignored, Winner smuggled out a classified report on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential  election and mailed it to The InterceptShe did this as a patriotic act, in support of her personal convictions over what’s right and wrong, as she feels it’s her duty to help the country she loves when it’s abused.

The highlight of the film is the dramatic interrogation by the FBI at Winner’s house. The agents follow the script of good-cop-bad-cop.

The cops clearly disrespected her and what she said. We see how’s she’s punished for telling it like it is about how America is threatened by Russian interference in the elections. The film, by keeping things straight, offers a sharp condemnation over her arrest and conviction–which is good for the public to see such a travesty of justice.

Sydney Sweeney sinks her teeth into her role as a naive but honest character, who should have been honored instead of vilified, and gives a winning natural performance. The story presents itself as an American tragedy and is done without editorializing by the filmmaker.

Two FBI agents and a young woman stand in an almost-empty