“American Insurrection” Isn’t the Movie You Think It Is
Times are divided, and so is this film.
Don’t let the title of the film American Insurrection fool you - it is not about 1/6/2021, nor is it really all that significant to today’s toxicity specifically. Not… not completely. Certainly, it’s marketed with an exploitative poster and trailer, serving itself at the altar of fellow liberals and anyone who has ever been profiled in any way. It’s not subtle, and the same can be said for the whims and ways of the story too. However, beneath the manipulation, there’s a fine domestic thriller afoot, with some interesting twists and turns. Better than those Lifetime Movies, but no Children of Men - what is, honestly?
Set in an America where white supremacy has become the blatant creed of the governing administration, where volunteer white militias scour the land for barcoded or “branded” people that have been deemed threats to the country, American Insurrection takes place mostly in a cabin in the woods and is primarily focused on a group of formerly/somewhat privileged lefties, living in hiding, awaiting a move to Canada. As a progressive myself, let me just state that this movie is pretty hokey. Not in the themes themselves, but in the handling of its themes. This stuff could very well happen here in the U.S. as it has in other countries and in other times, but the perspective is a silly facade for what could’ve been an intelligent allegory. What American Insurrection sees as being righteous is really just as flat as a Pepsi. While I can applaud the difficulty in not featuring a stand-in leader for Trump or W. Bush, I just can’t get on board with a movie so in love with how presently prophetic it feels it is. Calm down, you’re not the first film to tread this territory.
Still, not all is bad. If American Insurrection succeeds at anything, it’s at being a backdoor zombie film. Think of those in hiding as survivors trying to wait out the ever-growing hoard outside of their shaky circumstances. Think of their interpersonal issues and hangups. Think of their hopes and dreams. This group may not bicker like the one in Night of the Living Dead, but they are running out of time, out of patience, and out of reason. A bomb waiting to explode.
It’s odd just how balanced American Insurrection becomes, going from pretentiousness to profound pathos by the halfway mark. This is accomplished on the shoulders of its performers, who by and large carry a poorly drawn premise to something heavy, at least eventually. Through and through, this is a cast of deeply complicated and flawed individuals, as thin-skinned as everyone else, and definitely not heroes by default or by political identification. Armed with some fully emotional performances, American Insurrection is able to slightly overcome the trappings of its own mighty self-importance. Not too little, and not too late. Absolutely welcome.
If only the film had understood its strong points much earlier, I’d be gushing over it instead of frowning because of it. After such drivel for the first half, such great conflict and actual humanity come forward in the remainder. American Insurrection is a very confused picture, and maybe not even a very confident one. Still, it pulls through and sticks a landing. Not the one it wanted, but one nonetheless.
Why that title though? It’s just so tacky and ill-fitting as if accepting defeat to the Redbox machines. If so, what a sad ending.
American Insurrection is now on-demand.