In June 2017, 25-year-old Reality Winner was arrested at her home in Augusta, Georgia, by FBI agents for leaking a confidential National Security Agency report to the press.
Employed at the time as a Farsi and Pashto linguist/translator at Pluribus International Corporation, an NSA contractor, Reality Winner became aware of an internal report attesting to Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential elections. that saw Donald Trump come to power. An interference which would have translated concretely into a manipulation of electronic votes remotely controlled from Moscow by hackers.
On motives that have yet to be determined (anti-Trumpism, democratic convictions, legitimate indignation, anti-patriotism, acquaintances with foreign powers?), Reality Winner printed this classified document, illegally removed it from the premises of Pluribus, and sent it by postal mail to The Interceptan online investigative magazine founded by Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras, the journalists who gave an echo, in 2014, to the revelations of Edward Snowden…
Directed by Tina Satter for HBO Max and released in French theaters on August 16, Reality is the first film at the cinema to approach, directly or indirectly, the famous “Russiagate” involving Donald Trump and his supposed connections with Russia. In this complex affair with multiple ramifications, the director focuses exclusively on the “Reality Winner episode” and the interrogation of the young woman at her home by two FBI agents.
For the sake of authenticity, the film reproduces to the word the exchanges of the three protagonists from the original recordings. A fascinating exercise for the spectator, confronted as rarely in the cinema with intelligence interrogation methods, with all the psychological tension that this entails. Bittersweet, our two investigators advance masked, hide their cards and know at all times how to obtain answers without using the slightest violence. For her part, the young woman, played by Sydney Sweeney, does her best to keep calm. Disturbed in the face of these men who know more than they pretend, Reality Winner goes to the bluff, somehow simulating lightness, gradually giving way, pretending to forget when she feels cornered, then nervously collapses.
All the salt of the film – and the director is aware of it – rests on the methods of interrogation of the intelligence agents. Because the Reality Winner case, in itself, is of only limited interest, the FBI agents having perfectly fulfilled their role and the political revelations being simply non-existent. As for the editing effects, with breaks in colorimetric tones and inserts on redacted documents, they only hinder the understanding of the whole for those who have never heard of the case.
Where the context of “Russiagate” makes the film a little futile, despite everything, is that according to a report by special prosecutor John Durham, which dates from November 2021, the accusations of collusion between the Russians and Donald Trump are completely smoked, the main informant of the file, Igor Danchenko, being henceforth accused of having lied all along the line under the influence of the Clinton clan… Even part of the American press ended up making its own criticism on this subject: washington post as at wall street journal. According to these, “This whole affair is, from start to finish, nothing but a series of stink bombs launched by Hillary Clinton’s campaign team, and of which the press was the gullible promoter”.
It remains to wonder, now, about the motivations of the director one year from the next American elections…
3 out of 5 stars