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Bartosz Bieleina appears in <i>Prime Time</i> by Jakub Piątek, an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Tomek Kaczor.

Movie Reviews

[Sundance ’21] ‘Prime Time’ review: Surprising lack of tension in hostage drama

A different era.

Prime Time is a world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival that revisits another time a specific mass fear swept the entire world. As the year 2000 was about to begin, people worried whether the turn of the century would bring about financial ruin or other dangers. On New Year’s Eve 1999, a man named Sebastian holds a television studio hostage. He insists on air time to deliver his message. But what does he want to say?

The situation should be rife with tension. The studio provides an almost claustrophobic atmosphere. The majority of Prime Time alternates between the studio floor and the control room. There are no wide open settings and much of the action takes place in tight quarters. Adding to the suspense is the fact the police do not seem to be on the same page.

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Yet, Prime Time is surprisingly lacking in this area. The story is interesting to watch due to the dynamics of the situation. There is the larger mystery involving Sebastian along with the conflicts between the police. The plot also adds the dealings of the network. Despite all of this, it feels like there is little going on during the film.

[Sundance '21] 'Prime Time' review: Surprising lack of tension in hostage drama

This could be balanced out with strong character development. Unfortunately, Prime Time does not have much. Everyone is the film is an archetype and the attempts to give a backstory to Sebastian do not work. This is especially disappointing since Bartosz Bielenia’s performance draws in audience. Sebastian is shows signs of being a multilayered character.

Prime Time does a better job of showing the impending century change. Various clips from parties around Poland are shown. Even though it is not shown in the studio, other parts of the film showcase this feeling of moving forward. Things finally come together in the final moments. Prime Time finds the tension that has been missing and the characters become more interesting. But by then it may be too late for some.

Continue to check out AIPT for our ongoing coverage of the Sundance Film Festival. Tickets and a full lineup can be found here.

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