The Interview, a 2014 movie directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
*** Warning. Spoiler alert ****
Dave Skylark (James Franco) is the host of an American television chat show, Skylark Tonight. His guests are normally light-weight showbiz people much given to on-screen revelations that shock the fans (the rap singer Eminem, played by himself, declares himself gay, for example). Skylark’s best buddy and Skylark Tonight’s producer, Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen, also one of the film’s directors), is approached by a representative of the North Korean government who states that Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is much taken by the show and has expressed a wish to be interviewed live in Pyongyang. Skylark and Rapoport fly to Pyongyang to conduct the interview but not before they have been coerced by CIA Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) to assassinate Kim Jong-un using ricin concealed in a plaster attached to the palm of one of the proponents, to be transferred on handshake.
All this happens in the first 20 minutes of the film. The remainder of the 1 hour 52 minute film details the highly unlikely development of the various relationships between Skylark, Rapoport, Kim and various male and female North Korean military and government officials and culminates in the death of Kim by rocket attack on Kim’s helicopter and fired upon from an ancient Russian T-54 tank that Kim just happened to have in his museum and Skylark just happens to be able to drive and, at the same time, release a live rocket that just happens to be in the tank.
The film is a lightweight somewhat juvenile black comedy. If you like films such as Wayne’s World, Dumber and Dumber, Super Troopers or anything starring Jim Carrey (post-Mask), Ben Stiller or Owen Wilson, you will probably enjoy The Interview and, I have to confess, I had a few laugh-out-loud moments. If not, give the film a miss although there is an undercurrent of seriousness about the political setup in North Korea and the deification of the Kim dynasty. But, toilet humour, and there’s much in the film, does not do it for me and James Franco could almost double for Jim Carrey in speech mannerisms, facial expressions and body language.
The film has reached a level of notoriety way above its artistic merit, primarily because of the hacking of Sony’s computer networks by, allegedly, North Koreans, followed by Sony’s temporary withdrawal of the film from public viewings in American cinemas and then by Obama’s criticism of the withdrawal.
The film has now been released on DVD and through online downloads and is now widely available on illegal pirate websites. It is set to become Sony’s highest grossing online movie of all time. In the seven days after release on December 25th, 2014, the film is said to have earned Sony $15M through DVD sales, rentals and online downloads:
It is very debatable whether Sony would have ever achieved such a financial windfall had the film not received such publicity. It’s a mediocre film, half way between a young adult slapstick movie and a serious attempt to expose the situation in North Korea. As such, it has limited appeal to either type of audience but there are now plans by South Korean activists to send thousands of DVDs and memory sticks containing the film over into North Korea using hot air balloons in the hope that the film will be seen by the few North Koreans who possess video players and/or a laptop computer. But, it will be a brave North Korean who dares to view the film even if he or she has the means to do so.
If The Interview succeeds in toppling the North Korean government, which I very much doubt, the film will become labelled a classic. Otherwise the film will go the way of Innocence of Muslims (remember that film?) and other films that raise issues of free speech and political censorship.