Photo: ‘Prime Time’/Netflix
Technical difficulties aren’t usually accompanied by hostages and a gun, but these are. A 2021 Sundance pick directed by Jakub Piatek comes to Netflix starring Bartosz Bielenia as Sebastian, a young man that locks himself in a TV studio on New Year’s Eve 1999 taking the host and security guard hostage.
This fast-paced drama hits the ground running wasting no time with introductions. Within minutes the viewer is sucked into the dangerous situation that is based on true events when men stormed a television studio during the same time period.
The film is taken place in Poland, December 31st, 1999. Before the day it was believed for the world to end. People overstocking on non-perishable items and waiting for the technology around them to fail at midnight. Though the phrase Y2K was never uttered in the film, the start of a new millennium was enough to get people worked up. The year 2000 problem was focused around a computer bug that was predicting that computers and operating systems were going to fail to adjust the date from 99 to 2000 without going back to 1900. It may sound silly now, but it was taken very seriously during the time and researched for over a year.
Poland has a long history of turmoil. During the time of 1999, the fall of communism in Poland was only ten years ago. Things were still adjusting and Poland just joined Nato during that year. An array of farmers and labor workers protests were in progress adding to the overall chaos. The addition of a doomsday conspiracy only added to the stress of a country trying to pull itself back together.
‘Prime Time’ – Up Close and Personal
Michal Luka perfectly captures the anxiety and tension in the room with his cinematography. A shaky camera shows the unstableness of the situation and that nobody, not even the lead, knows what is coming next. The camera is almost a second behind each action making the viewer think they missed something for a moment. Using that method gives the audience the same uneasiness as the negotiators when they are trying to gain control. Once the camera leaves the TV studio and enters a “safe zone” it becomes still; the movements are now smooth, a sense of trust is given back to the audience until we return to the waving gun.
The use of cameras is important due to the fact that in the studio there are four TV cameras being used to switch back and forth. The multi-camera setup acts as the only eye for the negotiators to see what Sebastian is doing. The audience gets the exclusive look by being down on the ground with him, seeing what he is doing at all times. The result is a stronger connection with him, seeing a cry for help rather than the desensitized nature of watching people through a screen.
Bielenia as the lead works alongside Magdalena Poplawska as the host who speaks too much and Andrzej Klak as the security guard who is a man of few words. The three of them have incredible chemistry on screen together as they go through every emotion during this intense hostage situation. Though Sebastian (Bielenia) is the assailant, the human side of him comes out making the two people who are in the most fear also have the most care for him. This question arises throughout the film, “who is the victim in a situation like this?”.
Bielenia does an incredible job from start to finish and is a prize to watch on the screen.
In The Details
A wonderful detail that was repeatedly used throughout the film was their choice of transitions. In the control room of the TV studio, there were multiple screens showing the different channels and what we’re playing on them. The variety from each small television to the next was vastly different; showing citizens partying while welcoming the new year and other clips show political protests and marches. The thought comes into the viewer’s mind of who is watching which channel? Who has the privilege to ignore what is going on in the world and can happily watch an orchestra play a symphony?
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This same notion can be related in most countries and especially today in the United States. It is easy to click the news off when you don’t hear what you want and switch it to something that can agree with your opinions. It is also easy to not pay attention at all and live in ignorance. Piatek knew what he was doing when adding these moments splitting up the film and giving the audience a second to breathe, but the truth behind these moments is crucial to the storyline.
Subtitles or dubbed?
This international film is available on Netflix with an English dubbed version. It may be tempting to choose that version, but it is encouraged to watch with the Polish language being heard. Not only is the unmatched dialogue a distracting watch, but this film also has many emotional monologues that need to be heard from the actor directly. Though voice actors are talented and appreciated, they have not had the same time and direction that the present actors were given. It may take more effort to watch the film, but the viewer will forget that it was even in a different language by the end of it.
Sebastian’s desperation is clear the moment he is on the screen. Shaking with a one-track mind, to get on live television. He will do whatever it takes to make sure that happens. This international Netflix thriller is a must-watch that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats until the very end. The suspense was perfectly executed with the thought-out cinematography and the passionate acting. ‘Prime Time’ is 93 minutes of pure uncertainty for what comes next.
Where to Watch
Stream ‘Prime Time’ on Netflix now.
Bartosz Bielenia can be seen in the upcoming film ‘Applause’ that is currently in post-production and directed by Juraj Lehotsky.
Actors: Bartosz Bielenia, Magdalena Poplawska, Andrzej Klak, Malgorzata Hahewka, Dobromir Dymecki, Monika Frajczyk, Cezary Kosinski, Adam Nawojczyk
Director: Jakub Piatek | Writer: Lukasz Czapski | Producers: Jakub Razowski & Krzysztof Terej
By Jack Colin
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Jack Colin is a playwright and screenwriter with an immense love for film & television which drives him to learn from and share his passion with anyone willing to listen. Living life as a trans man, Jack wants his writing to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ members and share the positive stories that are so often ignored through his work at The Hollywood Insider, he is eager to give readers a confident outlook on life. The storytellers of the world are the ones who decide what happiness can be. Jack takes pride in The Hollywood Insider’s mission statement to stray away from gossip and to lift up voices in entertainment with supportive and meaningful stories that will promote strength and unity.