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Julia Loktev’s Day Night Day Night follows a suicide bomber to Times Square

Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Olympus Has Fallen has us thinking about better films about terrorism.

Day Night Day Night (2006)
As the title suggests, Julia Loktev’s Day Night Day Night is a film of opposing halves. In the first half, an unnamed young woman (Luisa Williams) surrenders herself to a group of masked men, who train her as a suicide bomber. When her handlers are present, she’s drilled relentlessly about the details of her false identity, subjected to various exercises in trust (including the old “fall backward, I’ll catch you” routine), and generally dehumanized as much as possible. But the film also spends a lot of time with her while she’s alone in her drab hotel room, which creates an overwhelming sense of complete isolation. The story suggests that only someone who’s truly detached from the rest of humanity could engage in such an act of self-annihilation.


But all of this is merely prelude to Day Night Day Night’s brilliant second half, which sends the young woman, toting a backpack with a bomb inside, into the teeming hive of people in Times Square. Loktev (The Loneliest Planet) isn’t façile enough to have her protagonist experience a sudden change of heart when confronted with the folks she plans to murder—the operation goes ahead as planned, albeit with complications. But the abrupt shift from isolation to congestion nonetheless colors everything that follows, achieving maximum poignancy when the bomber, unable to detonate her device and needing to contact her handlers, is reduced to begging potential victims for spare change. Loktev deliberately provides no details regarding the organization’s political or national agenda (though everyone speaks unaccented English), but none of that really matters. The question she’s asking is simpler: Can the world register on a mind that’s been systematically stripped of everything except a sense of angry purpose?

Availability: Streaming on Netflix, and available for digital rental or purchase from Amazon and other retailers. The DVD is out of print, but can be found online fairly cheap.

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