Talking Movies: The Social Dilemma, Smoke & Mirrors and Anna

Spling reviews The Social Dilemma, Smoke & Mirrors and Anna as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a docudrama and two spy thrillers.

Starting off with a documentary now on Netflix…


Tech experts sound the alarm on the dangerous human impact of social networking.

Director: Jeff Orlowski

Features: Tristan Harris, Jeff Seibert and Bailey Richardson

– The Social Dilemma is essentially the An Inconvenient Truth of data and privacy.
– centred around commentary from Tristan Harris, the docudrama unpacks some alarming and eye-opening truths when it comes to social media and the age of disinformation.
– Covering much of the territory gained in The Great Hack, Influence and After Truth, The Social Dilemma drills own to the individual instead of political or geographic collectives.
– Speaking to just about anyone with a Facebook account, the talking heads are comprised of former and current social media people, founders and influential members.
– It’s a comprehensive overview, going into some depth about behavioural sciences, the algorithims that run unchecked, mental health affects, using the platforms as political tools and risks posed by allowing social media giants to regulate themselves.
– Using docudrama inserts to illustrate their points, Orlowski creates a semi-satirical domestic drama to reflect the situation back to the audience.
– It’s an important film in flagging current problems of the new frontier of profiteering data-driven social media organisations and suggesting possible solutions.
– The drama cutaways are slightly off-key, trying to emulate The Joneses with a biting and incisive touch set against the unwieldy fantasy comedy element.
– However, this doesn’t take away from the driving force of the bold and honest message that should hopefully encourage viewers to take active measures to reduce their reliance on social media or seek help in cases of addiction.
– There’s a kernel of advertising at the heart of The Social Dilemma with Harris pushing his company’s agenda for more humane technology, but this counterbalance seems necessary given the current trajectory of unchecked social media addiction and the societal division playing out.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a film now on Netflix…


The story of a man who fooled an entire country, the spy Francisco Paesa.

Director: Alberto Rodríguez

Stars: Eduard Fernández, Jose Coronado and Miquel García Borda

– Smoke & Mirrors is an intellectual drama, essentially a Spanish version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
– Dealing with back room politics, secretive meetings and well-dressed middle aged men with cheque books instead of guns, there are a number of parallels.
– This biographical spy drama thriller isn’t quite as clinical, refined or monied as Alfredson’s film, but it’s elegantly photographed and compelling thanks to an energetic edit.
– The drama is intentionally slow-moving and will still be regarded as plodding for most, but there’s more vitality at the heart of this film.
– Operating much like a chess game, you’ve got to be patient… try to predict the opponent’s next move and unlock hidden agendas.
– It’s a well-acted drama yet the characters operate at a cool distance making it an effort to care about their prospects.
– Thankfully, the Count of Monte Cristo undertone and based-on-a-true-story origins help focus one’s attention on the story and its myriad of characters and international destinations.
– Splicing some actual news footage into the thriller, it’s entertaining to grapple with the old-fashioned spy games, deceptions and political gambits.

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!

And finally a movie now on Showmax…


A striking young Russian woman becomes one of the KGB’s most feared government assassins.

Writer-Director: Luc Besson

Stars: Sasha Luss, Luke Evans and Helen Mirren

– The story line isn’t anything new, essentially Red Sparrow meets John Wick, bowing to tropes of the genre.
– This globe-trotting spy thriller is built around Luss whose stunning visage conjures up Milla Jovovich at times through her many disguises and makes every scene easy to watch.
– Luss goes with the flow, never looking out of her depth opposite her fine supporting cast and making the action seem effortless, testament to the stunt and fight choreography team.
– Anna is a film that tries to mystify audiences with its choppy timeline, jumping back and forward through flashbacks, which keeps you guessing and engaged but also creates some distance in its sleight-of-hand editing.
– As a slick comic book actioner, it’s not concerned with investigating the inner workings of the KGB or CIA but delivering entertainment by way of whirlwind, often bloody, assassin action.
– The spy romance element steers things into the pulpy fun and danger of a femme fatale hero but remains elusive enough to avoid devolving into a comedic Mr and Mrs Smith concept.
– Leveraging its gliding cinematography, ’80s throwback soundtrack and gritty action sequences there are many similarities with Atomic Blonde.
– The genre play is familiar but remains entertaining as a popcorn blockbuster with a beautiful fresh-faced lead, natural elegance and enough twists-and-turns.

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer

So just to wrap up…

THE SOCIAL DILEMMA… while the docudrama element is tonally imbalanced, the social media documentary remains comprehensive, eye-opening and powerful… A solid 7!

SMOKE & MIRRORS… a lovingly-crafted, well-acted, old-fashioned and slow-burning biographical spy thriller in spite of its cool distance… A satisfactory 6!

ANNA… a fresh-faced lead overcomes well-worn spy tropes in this diverting, sharp, slick and entertaining action thriller… A satisfactory 6!

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