The Interview may be offensive, but it's also a very funny and smart satirical comedy...
To the computer hackers who struck Sony Pictures and caused a major worldwide stir:
I can imagine that you're very frustrated right now. In December 2014, you were so concerned about the release of The Interview, a satirical comedy film about a fictional assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, that you hacked into Sony Pictures Entertainment's computer system, stole some sensitive information, and used it to blackmail the studio into cancelling the movie. At first, it looked like you won, but ultimately, Sony would still release it. In fact, your actions have actually given the movie more promotion than if you had done nothing. I am not a computer hacker and I do not agree with what you've done. At the same time, as someone who has seen The Interview, I want to share my thoughts on it in hopes that you can have a somewhat clearer understanding of the film.
First off, some of the humor seems to ridicule Americans more than North Koreans. Let's look at the beginning of the movie. James Franco plays Dave Skylark, the host of an entertainment news show called Skylark Tonight, while Seth Rogen is the show's producer named Aaron Rapaport. Dave is interviewing a certain real-life celebrity who reveals something unexpected about himself, after which Aaron and the television control room staff go nuts as they scramble to get that juicy gossip onto Twitter and other social media feeds. It's a pretty funny scene because the actors are energetic and the situation reflects the fast-paced society that America has become. It also effectively sets the tone of comedy for the rest of the movie.
It is not long before two things happen. One, Aaron learns that Kim Jong-un is a fan of Skylark Tonight and works to arrange an interview between Dave and Jong-un. However, discussion of North Korea's terms for the interview can only be done in person at a specific set of coordinates in China, a situation that can lend itself to good humor. The other thing that happens is that the CIA visits Dave and Aaron to discuss a plan to covertly assassinate Jong-un on the day of the interview. This is where any uneasy feelings about the idea of assassination may be overshadowed by humorous moments, such as when Dave practices the assassination move but screws it up in a very funny way.
At this point, you're probably demanding that I go straight to what you're most curious about: the portrayal of North Korea and its people. Well, I can tell you this. When the film first shows North Korean military officers, it shows them as disciplined and able to keep order, but not necessarily brutal to its foreign guests (provided that they don't break any rules). In fact, Dave and Aaron are invited to stay in lavish guest rooms, which is rather interesting for a country that the world sees as inhospitable. But now I have to give you the honest truth about what happens later in the movie. There are some scenes that depict bloody, disgusting, and even sexual moments with North Korean characters. One might think that censors could just cut out those scenes, but the problem is that those scenes are integral to the plot. All you can do is to remind yourself that it's nothing but fiction.
Regarding Jong-un in this movie, actor Randall Park plays the North Korean leader as a character who isn't entirely one-dimensional. In other words, Kim Jong-un in The Interview is not a 100% hateful man who does nothing but oppress everyone around him. Rather, the character has a bitter side despising others as well as a happier side enjoying life. The latter characteristic ends up making the movie a lot more interesting, because it invites twists and complications to the story and new interpretations of the main characters. That's not to say the portrayal of Jong-un is not potentially offensive. For instance, there is one scene that depicts Jong-un as a wild party animal who enjoys drinking and sex as much as a lot of free-spirited Americans.
Basically, what you have here is a movie that derives humor from a combination of unexpected complications, frantic reactions to those complications, and plenty of strong gross-out humor. I also admire the movie for not being entirely insensitive to the subject matter. While this movie is supposed to be entirely fiction and not to be taken seriously, the writers didn't create a simplistic story where America is all good and North Korea is all bad. If anything, the script includes moments that go against those preconceived notions, such that the American and North Korean characters end up looking a lot more similar to each other than before. Strangely enough, it's as if the movie is expressing a desire for peace between the two countries.
On that note, I shall now address the big question that is likely on your minds. Does Kim Jong-un ultimately get assassinated in this movie? For the sake of not spoiling the movie for anyone wanting to see it, I will not say how it ends. If the finale does evoke strong feelings, however, just remember that the movie is meant entirely for entertainment purposes. It is not a propaganda film designed to stir up military action against North Korea, and nobody is stupid enough to think the film portrays actual events. Basically, if you are a strong Jong-un supporter, you can just ignore the movie and the people who enjoy it (which includes me, of course).
In conclusion, The Interview is a very enjoyable movie for anyone who likes nonstop energetic comedy, a well-written story, and controversial topics handled in unexpectedly clever ways. And in case it's not clear, what you are reading is a movie review like any other movie review I've done. I've written this movie review in the style of an open letter to the Sony hackers just so I can be creative and funny while talking about this funny movie. If, however, you are reading this as a serious message addressed to you, then I hope the situation surrounding the release of The Interview provides an important lesson: you can never stop everyone from insulting you, but you can always ignore anyone who insults you. With movies, people who love it can be happy, and those who hate it can ignore it and move on. The Interview is no exception.
Thank you. And have a nice day.
P.S. Come to think of it, Kim Jong-un in real life does love basketball, and he seems to get along with former basketball star Dennis Rodman. Is it wishful thinking to hope that Jong-un will watch The Interview and take away something positive from it? (Just ignore me if you think the answer is no.)
Anthony's Rating: 9/10
(Review originally published at http://www.anthonysfilmreview.com/Film/I/The_Interview.htm)