Sydney Sweeney in Reality | Agents of Fandom

Sydney Sweeney Gives an Unreal Performance as Reality Winner in Max’s ‘Reality’ Movie

“Honestly, I just figured that whatever we were using had already been compromised.” — Reality Winner

The new Max original Reality movie, starring Sydney Sweeney as Reality Winner, is almost too wild to believe that it’s true. And not only is it true, but it is also impressively entirely pulled from the transcripts of the real-life conversation between Reality Winner and the two FBI agents questioning her about leaked documents involving Russian interference in the 2016 election. Reality’s name itself adds that extra layer of shock to the story, doesn’t it?

Who is Reality Winner?

Close-ups and unique editing help Sydney Sweeney's acting abilities shine. | Agents of Fandom
Close-ups and unique editing help Sydney Sweeney’s acting abilities shine. Image Credit Max.

On June 3, 2017, 25-year-old Reality Winner was arrested for printing out and leaking confidential documents regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election to the news outlet The Intercept. She was a former United States Air Force member who, at the time, was a linguist contractor working with the NSA. She was fluent in four languages—Farsi, Dari, Pashto, and English—and had top security clearance within the government. Quite the resume if you ask me.

Upon initial encounter in the film, Reality Winner contains an aura of innocence. She was an avid CrossFit enthusiast along with a practicing yoga instructor. She was the mom of a formerly neglected dog along with a cute house cat.

The film does an impressive job conveying this very side of her in its brief but punchy 83-minute runtime. Editing ingenuity allows for screenshots of her real-life Instagram profile along with some truly unique storytelling regarding redacted information—this is, after all, a government story—creating some of my favorite moments of the film.

The movie is essentially a single-location film, with it predominantly taking place in the awkward, ominous extra room of Reality’s home as an FBI squad raids and photographs the rest of the house. Agent Garrick (Josh Hamilton) and Agent Taylor (Marchánt Davis) press Reality for answers about the leaked documents, slowly and painstakingly juicing more and more fruitful information out of her. As the pressure is applied, Sydney Sweeney gets to display the more subtle side of her acting abilities, exhibiting wrought emotion through eyebrow movements and darting eyes.

Sydney Sweeney as reality winner, Josh Hamilton (center), and Marchánt Davis (right) make for a killer triple threat in HBO's Reality movie I Agents of Fandom
Sydney Sweeney (left), Josh Hamilton (center), and Marchánt Davis (right) make for a killer triple threat. Image Credit: Max.

Max’s Reality movie focuses on what matters most in a political drama

The film doesn’t engage in what it doesn’t need to. Its ability to stay lean and mean is among its greatest strengths—one that will hopefully encourage lots of people to fire it up on the rebranded Max service.

Questions of patriotic duty, the impact of Trump-era intimidation and politics, along with the constant pressing of a politicized media that routinely engage in scare tactics are all thought pieces worth exploring by the time the credits roll. A surprisingly strong directorial debut for Tina Satter, Max’s Reality movie is a firm induction into both the “real-life government stories” and “single location” pantheons of movies.

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'Reality' Review

'Reality' Review
3.5 5 0 1
3.5 rating
Total Score

The Good

  • Unique editing style keeps it visually stimulating.
  • Script pulled straight from real-life transcripts.
  • Another snail in another thriller movie.

The Bad

  • Single location can wane interest in movie.
  • Minimal information regarding background, additional motives, etc.
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