Directed by Julia Loktev (2006)
Created during some of the most hothouse days of post-9/11 terrorism and panic, Julia Loktev's riveting thriller of a would-be female suicide bomber is an excellent study of terror and naivete. This one had been on my "list" for some time, and I loved that it feels as if it could have been made just as easily in 1975 or 2016. It has a gritty 70s feel, full of amorality and of youth gone adrift - to say the least. There's even a (somewhat) filthy and alienating New York City as a backdrop. To do an IMDB search and find that Loktev has only been able to make one film since, well, that just ain't right.
Much is left out of the back story of our bomber (played by Luisa Williams); we don't know her name, nor why this caucasian 19-year-old has volunteered to blow herself up in the middle of Times Square. We know she's come from across the country, and that she needs to carefully repeat mantras to herself ("Everybody dies eventually") to keep her head in this game. She's aligned with an underground organization - possibly a left-wing terror group, though there are faint hints that they're appropriating some of the imagery of Islamic terror - and while it's clear she's committed to carrying this out, Loktev allows for some cracks in her facade. For instance, her nervous fumbling with chopsticks, or her questioning of her handlers on why she'd still have to blow herself up in the event she was caught - or the great lengths she goes to in her temporary motel room to clean, scrub and exfoliate herself, one day before she's due to die, as if to figuratively atone for what she's about to do.
I loved that none of this was overplayed in the least, nor how, when she's asked to make the de rigeur why-I-did-it video to be shown after her death, we don't actually get to watch the video nor the making of it - only the set-up of her in front of the camera. Her handlers know exactly what they want, and she, this ingenue, is merely the cannon fodder for a very horrific terrorist attack. Dialogue is sparse and infrequent. Most is left to our star's face, posture and actions as she is maneuvered into place to carry this out.
To say more would be unfair to those who want to see where this nearly unbearable tension takes them. I found "DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT" to be a superbly disturbing way to spend 90 minutes, and recommend it without reservation to those looking for an intense dramatization of what a final 36 hours of life might be like for some of world's most radicalized youth.