The Interview (2014)

Posted by December 24, 2014

The question for the ages regarding "The Interview" is whether it will transcend the glut of controversy surrounding its release. Surely, threats of nuclear war, following a cyber-attack from what was likely a fringe group of extremists, from the country whose supreme eternal ruler leader is the target of the film's particularly nasty brand of satire will tarnish its image as a work of artful expression (which, as both satire and comedy, it most definitely is--sometimes in pretty unexpectedly rich ways), no? Well, now that you mention it, no. The answer to that question for the ages is, resoundingly, "Yes," at least for this viewer.

Of course, the Supreme Leader in question is Kim Jong-un, and it is to Kim's North Korea our lovably dunderheaded heroes, television host Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen, who also directed the film with his longtime creative partner Evan Goldberg), travel on orders from the Central Intelligence Agency (Lizzy Caplan and Reese Alexander play the agents in charge of the mission). They are, as you can probably guess, to assassinate the Kim of the film (Randall Park, as what is very likely an exaggeration of the real person) under the guise of a career-redefining interview. The plan involves a patch of ricin, but of course the movie wouldn't be a comedy if the plan was even remotely sensible, and this one's pretty flimsy.

There is a bevy of comedy to be found here and of a pretty wide range, too. The opening act satirizes, through a duo of cameos that are as amusing as they are decidedly uncredited, the craze of media attention to the smallest details of celebrity- and event-related anti-news (A double take in the wake of the controversy and specific details regarding won't be entirely unexpected), before honing in specifically on the crude humor for which Rogen and Goldberg are most popular (though the screenwriter in this instance is Dan Sterling). Pop-culture references are prevalent, such a particularly atmospheric use of a popular Katy Perry anthem and references to a well-known fantasy series that amuse because they actually apply in some strange universe.

It's mostly commentary on dictatorial rule, though, especially in the film's biggest joke: Kim is actually a really nice guy with his own set of problems and regrets; Park plays the role far more subtly than expected, even amid all the pot-smoking and hoops-shooting antics. The interview of the title, meanwhile, is utterly triumphant in ways that unfold with almost hypnotic pleasure. One major misstep arrives by way of a pretty pointless romance between Aaron and Sook (Diana Bang), Kim's right-hand woman who secretly desires nothing less than the ruin of Kim's legacy and authority--though at least the film more or less acknowledges its uselessness by the end.

Never you mind, though, reader: "The Interview" is worth more than a throwaway romantic attraction and a pretty inflated controversy (which, for all its talking points, is only extracurricular in nature and has next-to-nothing to do with the movie at hand); it has something potent to say about and as satire, which is something worth celebrating. Rogen and Goldberg are working on all cylinders as filmmakers here (Brandon Trost's cinematography is particularly gorgeous, at times recalling Jeff Cronenweth's work with David Fincher, while Zene Baker and Evan Henke's fleet editing leaves neither shot nor scene wasted), and Rogen as an actor, in conjunction with a game Franco and the ensemble surrounding them, leads the charge in this blazing, balls-to-the-wall comedy that leaves few political stones unturned.

Film Information

James Franco (Dave Skylark), Seth Rogen (Aaron Rapaport), Lizzy Caplan (Agent Lacey), Randall Park (Kim Jong-un), Diana Bang (Sook), Timothy Simons (Malcolm), Reese Alexander (Agent Botwin), James Yi (Ofc. Koh), Paul Bae (Ofc. Yu).

Directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen and written by Dan Sterling.

Rated R (pervasive language, crude/sexual humor, nudity, drug use, bloody violence).

112 minutes.

Released in select cities on December 25, 2014.