No ★★★★½

Sony's U-Matic video format, like a lot of video formats in the eighties, is pretty terrible: heavy contrast, over-saturation, blows-out easily, has poor red reproduction and lots of purple fringing. Which is why it's the perfect format for this political drama about the Chilean referendum of 1988.

Telling the story of producer René Saavedra who's charged with leading the 'No' campaign against dictator Pinochet's rule, it's a very modern story of the birth of advertising as a political tool. The ruling right use propaganda and scare tactics to try and cow the people into retaining the fascist regime, where's René sees an opportunity to 'sell' the concept of change bringing happiness.

Shooting the film using a format from the era makes for an aesthetically 'challenging' look to say the least, but it allows a seamless blending of archive footage with director Larraín's own takes, giving the whole production an amazing feel of authenticity. Performances are restrained and low-key, with a documentary feel to the action that increases the tension as you wait nervously to see whether the regime's black bag agents are going to sabotage the voting, or even simply make the 'No' campaign leaders 'disappear'...

Feeling a lot shorter than its near two-hour runtime, No is one of the best political dramas to emerge in the last two decades; a fascinating look at a major turning point in the way political messaging is handled, and the way it uses propaganda to coerce the people.