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Sundance: Prime Time

Set in Poland on New Year’s Eve 1999, Prime Time stars Bartosz Bielenia as Sebastian, a troubled young man who breaks into a major Polish television studio. He takes a security guard and on air hostess hostage and demands that he be broadcast live to the nation. With gun in hand and a note in his pocket, he  battles with the television producers and the hostage negotiators who will do anything to prevent him from reading his message. The situation gets more volatile as the night progresses, leaving Sebastian in a bind.

Directed by Jakub Piątek, Prime Time seems to have an important message to offer but ultimately fails to deliver. It eschews the conventional approach to a hostage thriller. Tension is palpable yet muted and the film moves along at a steady rather than frenzied pace. Bartosz Bielenia, who starred in the excellent Polish drama Corpus Christi, is magnificent as the disturbed Sebastian who is anything but a villain. However, the viewer never really gets to know his character. We’re left wondering about his motivation. Ultimately he is a relatable character whom we empathize with but the impetus for his actions are unclear. It leaves the viewer with more questions than answers.

Prime Time had its world premiere at the virtual 2021 Sundance Film Festival as part of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition.

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