Review: 3%

Note: this is a spoiler-free review of the show.

3

In the future, year 104, the world is divided into to two classes: the poor in the slums, and the rich who live in the Offshore. Every year, all 20-year-old citizens from the slums compete to live in the Offshore. “In The Offshore, all are given equal opportunity to advance.” Proclaims the charismatic leader, Ezequiel. Only 3% of the contestants, candidates, will get to live in Utopia. However, The System is threatened by The Cause. Maybe there was something lost in translation (show is shot in Brazilian Portuguese), but those are the most unoriginal names. Anyway, 3% follows five candidates (Michele, Fernando, Joana, Marco, Rafael) in their quest to become the lucky 3%, and Ezequiel (João Miguel). He’s the almighty Supervisor, who might be working with The Cause.

As an ensemble show, 3% follows a Lost format. Each episode focuses on one character of the ensemble, with flashbacks, and their journey through The Process. Michele (Bianca Comparato), is the secret resistance fighter. Marco (Rafael Lozano) is the vain and relatively well-off candidate. He considers it his birthright to make it to The Offshore, the rest of his family has. Rafael (Rodolfo Valente) is the trickster-type. Fernando (Michel Gomes) is the sweet, paraplegic, who befriends Michele. Joana (Vaneza Oliveira) is the lone wolf.

You also see elements of the Hunger Games, Elysium, Survivor. Candidates must outwit, outlast, and outplay each other to prove themselves worthy to the Administrators. They are given “tests”, like assembling blocks quickly to show high IQ; and successfully making across a tunnel while being dosed with hallucinogens, to prove perseverance, maybe?

From the beginning, the show presents The Process as an invasive and dehumanizing ordeal that only proves the candidates’ willingness to submit to the system. In the pilot, they are put through a questionnaire that is invasive and harsh. It is like a job interview, psychological evaluation, and lie-detector test. They ask a black woman how often she washes her hair. Fernando’s disability is mocked. Michele is hit on by the interviewer and mocked for her attachment to a sentimental object. “Are you worth being saved?” They ask. They are really asking what are the candidates willing to give up. The ones who pass the first stage, must disavow all ties to their former lives.

Despite rigged nature of The Process, some characters are willing to defend this system, like Fernando, the paraplegic who has near-religious faith in the system. The most optimistic character of the show. He firmly believes in the system, and believes in its mission for good, even when confronted of the reality of its unfairness. He believes in self-reliance, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. It is admirable, but also frustrating to Michele, who tries to get him to see the injustice. The candidates know they are being watched, yet this doesn’t prevent anyone, Rafael mostly, from cheating. No one is eliminated for cheating. They are eliminated for giving the wrong answers or not completing the test on time.

This is not light escapism. In fact, you may be wishing for escapism from this show. Given the current political climate, this is a show that plays to the worst fears of a totalitarian government, built on ideals of equality and self-reliance. This show might be better if watched once a day, like a miniseries event. One problem is that the 3% is depressing. The demoralizing tests are, well, demoralizing after a while. The subplot of Ezequiel being watched by his superiors is the least interesting part of the show. The Cause is barely mentioned after the pilot. Michele is pushed to the back burner soon. It’s not that all shows have to be upbeat and positive. But for a show that presents a resistance and a revenge story within the pilot, it doesn’t show much interest in either of those.  All of 3% eight episodes are streaming on Netflix.

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Review : ’71

’71 (2014)

dir. Yann Demange

starring: Jack O’Connell, Paul Anderson, Richard Dormer, Sean Harris, Barry Keoghan, Martin McCann

An intense night in Belfast at the height of the Troubles in 1971.  Jack O’Connell plays an army recruit thrown into the middle of conflict who must find his way to safety.

In Northern Ireland, at the height of the Troubles, an army recruit (Jack O’Connell) is sent into Belfast with his unit to quell the violence.  The unit is sent in to assist the local police force in an investigation.   As they enter they are met with open hostility.  Kids throw turd bombs at them.   A crowd soon gathers, angry at the army’s presence.  Then one of the soldiers is shot, and a riot breaks out. The situation gets out of hand and he is separated from his unit.  He has to find his way back, while trying to stay alive, in enemy territory.  The film is grimy and tries to get the look of an urban war zone.  The night sky is lit with burning cars and buildings; and the few people on the street rush to the relative safety of their homes.  Director Demange employs the shaky, handheld camera device, which at this point feels tired and showy.  ’71 gives no context to the situation.  The meaning of the movement, the riots, public opinion aren’t addressed directly.  Like Hook, we are thrown into the thick of the conflict.  From that confusion, the main focus is the humanity and underlying compassion.

It is a cat and mouse thriller where allegiances are unclear.   It soon becomes clear that the undercover agents (lead by Sean Harris) are also out to get Hook.  Their mission isn’t made clear, and, in any case, it doesn’t seem  to be the point.  It seems more to focus on compassion for a fellow human in a time of crisis.  That being said, no good deed goes unpunished.  The Lieutenant (Sam Reid) chooses to go into Belfast without riot gear.  It is a goodwill gesture that backfires spectacularly when they are unequipped to deal with the riot.  The army vet (Richard Dormer) that helps him, didn’t know who he was, is later threatened by enemy.  The juxtaposition of mercy and violence reminded me of Children of Men, in a good way.  Those were the powerful moments of ’71.

The ending, while not ambiguous, is not hopeful either.  Hook is not developed enough for us to fully invest in his story after the conflict.

www.71themovie.com

Recommend: I’d wait for the DVD release. 

Availability (US): in limited theatrical release 27 Feb