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Given the stale conventions of most films that take on the issue of terrorism, Julia Loktev's feature is notable for its efforts to avoid melodrama and sloganeering. Unfortunately this portrait of a young woman on the eve of her first terrorist foray—a bombing of Times Square—replaces the knee-jerk patriotic bluster of Hollywood films with its own postmodern cliches. Loktev is in superb control of her material: she elicits a convincingly unhistrionic performance from newcomer Luisa Williams and chronicles the young antiheroine's daily regimen with a meticulousness that recalls the Dardenne brothers' flair for naturalistic detail. Yet unlike the Dardennes or the best practitioners of political cinema, she possesses almost zero political acumen, and her film ends up resembling nothing more than a well-calibrated performance piece, as vacuous as its confused protagonist. 94 min.

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