No ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

No (2012)
Pablo Larraín

1988 Chilean national plebiscite, which allowed for the peaceful ousting of Pinochet, is given the inside baseball treatment (Matt Prigge compared it to MONEYBALL, which feels like an appropriate tonal landmark). Incredibly specific in both the parameters of the conflict* and the period details yet the brilliance of the film is in how pliable its themes are to almost any political campaign. Hard not to see echoes of the “No campaign” in everything from Rock the Vote to Bill Clinton playing saxophone on “The Arsenio Hall Show” to the Big Bird/Romney adds that Obama ran during the last election. Larraín depicts the hotly contested campaign as back and forth between the entrenched conservative party, always a step behind, and the more youthful and creative liberal party which has the tendency to reduce complex issues into easily digestible buzz phrases, no different than if they were selling a new brand of cola. Taking a page from Gael García Bernal’s performance, the film treats this incredibly important issue with an almost breezy detachment, focusing almost exclusively on the work and not the tyranny that motivates it; only arriving at weary catharsis after the job is over (García Bernal has a hollow victory realization similar to Chastain in ZERO DARK THIRTY, minus the waterworks). Speaking of the work, the film’s true achievement is the way it seamlessly integrates 25-year-old archival footage (by the director’s estimate, roughly a third of the actual film) into its narrative, through spot on production design, loving recreations, and the choice to shoot the film on the archaic yet strangely nostalgic U-matic video format. This does a better job of capturing an exact moment in time than the collective production design nominees at this year’s Oscars.

*After living under a dictatorship for nearly 2 decades, the minority opposition was allotted only 15-minutes a night on state-run television to make its case to the people to vote against a constitutional amendment that would allow Pinochet to remain in power. (Or, you know, go to Wikipedia)