Free speech is important for our species to preserve and fight for. I say this as much in reference to Kim Jong-un’s childish reaction to the recent comedy film made about him, as I say it in the wake of the tragic Charlie Hebdo attacks in France. It appears terrorists of all sorts are doing their damnedest to silence one of the most important voices in modern society, the voice of satirical comedy, and their reaction towards basic, non-violent humour is devastating to behold.
As for The Interview, that’s a battle which the good guys won. Yes, the film can in fact be seen now, in all its Korea-bashing glory. We did get a select few screenings in December but now you can also watch it online in its entirety and, as chance would have it, on Blu-ray disc this February. Gnarly.
James Franco and Seth Rogen star in The Interview as Dave Skylark and Aaron Rapaport. Dave hosts an interview programme, Skylark Tonight, in which he speaks to random celebrities about various forms of gossip. One day, it turns out that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (as played by Randall Park) is a huge fan of the show, which causes Aaron, the show’s producer, to arrange an interview with the dictator in question, after some persuasion from an enthusiastic Dave. As if the scenario by itself isn’t crazy enough as it is, Lizzy Caplan appears as a CIA agent, who proposes to the two men that they use their interview as a cover to assassinate the supreme leader. It pretty much ends with Dave accepting the mission, travelling to North Korea with an uneasy Aaron, screwing up the mission, and ending up as one of Kim’s dearest friends after they start spending time together and Kim tries to convince him that he’s actually just “misunderstood”. How sweet.
There’s a romantic subplot involving Aaron and a North Korean propagandist (Diana Bang) who secretly wants Kim dead also, and the inevitable celebrity cameos are many. There’s a bit of Eminem, a bit of Bill Maher, a bit of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and a few nanoseconds of Iggy Azalea that last a bit too long.
Even if some viewers have been underwhelmed by the film itself after hearing its reputation, I found that there is a lot to like in The Interview. I love political satire, I appreciate films that take risks (see also my reviews of Team America and The Dictator), and I do generally like James Franco and Seth Rogen, even if it’s mainly because they’re currently doing a Tommy Wiseau biopic based on Greg Sestero‘s novel about the legendarily chaotic production of The Room, my favourite bad movie of all time.
As much as I admire the film in its bold choice of targets, it never goes too far, or “far enough” as true fans of satire would phrase it. Basically, it’s hard to see what good ol’ Kim is so testy about, not that I assume he’s enough of a good sport about comedy to have tried actually watching it, but I guess an overreaction is to be expected from a person like that, even when the film in question isn’t as harsh in its mockery of him as it could have been.
This is a pretty damn funny movie, though, not only in its obligatory jabs at North Korean politics or its often genuinely hilarious Kim Jong-un portrayal, but also in its commentary on modern-day media and television. The performances in The Interview help strengthen its humour and the occasional use of K-Pop music, something that sparked even more petty controversy due to copyright reasons, was certainly a nice touch.
The Interview is, perhaps, not as hysterically dead-on in its satire as any given Trey Parker and Matt Stone project but it doesn’t need to be. Its triumph lies in the fact that we can see it, share it and speak of it, all without letting ourselves get bullied into silence by war-hungry dictators or fearing the potential reactions of a man so childish and thin-skinned that even a muslim fundamentalist would go “Holy shit dude, even I can tell that this is just a joke”. It’s a step in the right direction, I can tell ya that much.
This review has been written in honor of free speech and those who continue to fight for it in the wake of recent tragedies. Cheers, friends!