'Day Night Day Night'
(Luisa Williams, Josh P. Weinstein, Gareth Saxe, et al / DVD / NR / (2006) 2007 / IFC Films)
Overview: A gripping drama that follows a young suicide bomber on her mission to wreak havoc in Times Square. It is not known who she represents or what she believes in, but she believes in her mission absolutely.
DVD Verdict: For most of its 94 minutes, this gripping minimalist portrait of an unidentified 19-year-old suicide bomber planning to blow up Times Square focuses on Ms. Williams’s face. Determination, rage, uncertainty, bravado, modesty and panic are among the feelings that flicker over her slightly feral features.
How much of “Day Night Day Night” you choose to remember, however, is another matter. It depends on your tolerance for high- concept stunts. The movie, written and directed by Julia Loktev, may be serious, and it certainly is sure of itself. But it is also maddeningly, purposefully evasive. It wants to imprison you in a terrorist mind-set and play cat-and-mouse games with your hopes and expectations. At moments, it suggests Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant,” but observed from the sole perspective of the shooters in that movie’s Columbine-like massacre.
Because no details are given or motives offered, “Day Not Day Night” is ostensibly apolitical. But the deliberate withholding of a political agenda in a movie about a suicide bomber has unavoidable political implications. It suggests that the motives matter less than the self- destructive act itself. The more you identify with Ms. Williams’s character, the more deeply you are implicated in her decision. And early on, the movie lets you know she has serious misgivings. Out loud and more than once, this scowling little Joan of Arc asks herself if she is doing it for the right reasons.
The movie is divided into two parts: preparation and action. The visually drab first part, set in the motel room, ticks along ominously like a slowed-up metronome. Emotions are stifled as the preparations unfold with grim deliberation. Once she has left her collaborators and entered Manhattan at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the chaos of the city intrudes, and she is jostled like the hand-held camera that follows her along 42nd Street to Seventh Avenue.
“Day Night Day Night,” like “Paradise Now,” the 2005 film about the recruitment and training of two Palestinian suicide bombers, teases you up to the last second as to the outcome. Its tensions are manipulated so skillfully that early on you become aware of your identification with her and conscious of the degree to which you want her succeed in her mission. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Feature Commentary with Writer/Director Julia Loklev