May 29, 2023

SCREEN | Sydney Sweeney Interrogates 'Reality' on HBO

"I knew it was a secret. But I also knew I pledged service to the American people."
Sydney Sweeney Tina Satter | Reality HBO
HBO Films / Seaview Productions
Playwright Tina Satter adapts her acclaimed off-Broadway stage play Is This A Room, dramatizing the 2017 interrogation of former NSA translator turned whistleblower Reality Winner, for the screen directly based on the 107-minute FBI audio transcript retold verbatim. Reality is a gripping reenactment of these real-life proceedings concerning the leaking of government intelligence confirming Russian interference in U.S. elections.

Sydney Sweeney stars more than capably as the eponymous Winner in a truly unsettling, naturalistic performance. She starts off as a seemingly unremarkable office worker and Air Force veteran before slowly unravelling under questioning as we learn more about her role in altruistically releasing classified government materials to the media.

Marchánt Davis and Josh Hamilton co-star as Winner's interrogators in what is almost essentially a three-hander, single-location film. Their interplay as FBI officers and partners in opposition to Reality makes for a captivating interplay as they politely try to elicit a confession as other agents raid her home.

Scripted by Satter and James Paul Dallas, Sweeney captures the real-life tensions of the events reenacted. By sticking to the exact documentation of what happened, Reality only heightens its spare but earnest, fact-based depiction through an uneasy attention to detail.

Reality aired on HBO is available to stream on Crave in Canada (and on Max in the U.S.).

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