Prediction – one day – when Kim Jong-un is busy figuring out what the next state-sanctioned haircut should look like – the events of December 1-25 will making for a really great biopic. It’s the kind of thing David Fincher [a victim of the Sony hack] would take on, and it would make a much better movie than this one.
Let’s forget for a minute that the release of this film was preceded by a successful hack of one of the world’s largest film studios, threats of violence against cinemas intending to screen the movie, accusations by the FBI against North Korea, Sony deciding to pull the movie from its Christmas release, intervention by the White House, North Korea’s internet being shut down and the ultimate release of the movie online for anyone to download.
This is a James Franco-Seth Rogen bromance where most of the jokes, like gimmicks in the movie, come straight from bodily orifices. In a highly publicized premise, TV personality Dave Skylark (Franco) and producer Aaron Rapoport (Rogen) score an interview with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un which ends with the latter’s highly violent death.
If I hadn’t known about the diplomatic and political crisis this movie had created I and the others watching with me would probably have fast-forwarded whole chunks – but for once I was fascinated that Empire, the New York Times and almost every foreign policy blog were all talking about the same thing.
There are fun moments and while not all the crude jokes were terrible there were just too many. Unlike This Is the End, one of many times where the pair have excelled and had their fair share of butt jokes, it wasn’t paced with many diverse gags or sustained points of humour. Separate from the political implications and unusual premise, ‘The Interview’ doesn’t have much to recommend it for viewing.
The brazenness of the plot is part of the reason for the controversy – other mainstream films do not depict attempted assassinations of living, current state leaders. Team America never killed off Kim Jong-il – he just scuttled off into a spaceship and flew away. Rogen/Franco could even have chosen a fake yet obvious pseudonym – just as Citizen Kane was never Citizen Hearst. They pulled very few punches in depicting a widely-held view of Kim Jong-un as a petulant world leader – highlighting amid the poop jokes the starvation, suppression of free speech and dire human cost of a totalitarian regime to a massive movie-going audience.
It is possible that North Korea will soon be referred to the International Criminal Court for its human rights record, provided none on the Security Council veto. Many of the circumstances facing North Koreans referred to in the film’s penultimate interview and throughout the movie may be on the table. ‘The Interview,’ along with the ‘Red Dawn’ remake are among the many films which have and will focus on the regime while media coverage intensifies in the lead-up to Kim Jong-un’s expected state visit to Russia, the first public foreign visit he has made as leader.
If one of those films is the biopic of the past month’s events it will be all about free speech, the autonomy of the film industry, cyber vandalism and the role of creative media in evolving political crises. It won’t be about where or how far Seth Rogen has to shove a large, phallic-shaped, visibly uncomfortable metal anything.