In an age where sexual harassment is finally beginning to be addressed in the highest places, ‘Bombshell’ tells the accounts of several women at Fox News who set out to expose CEO Roger Ailes for misconduct. Shot like a documentary, it’s a film that is stylistically reminiscent of last years ‘Vice’, though it’s not quite as creative or successful.
‘Bombshell’ starts by pointing out that though it is inspired by true events, some characters and events have been changed for dramatic effect. The story focuses on newscasters Megyn Kelly (real), Gretchen Carlson (also real) and Kayla Pospisil (not real) as they try to expose the horrors beneath the surface of Fox News. CEO Roger Ailes is head of the most successful conservative TV news show (not too far below Rupert Murdoch), and it’s clear he abuses this power with anger, inappropriate comments and sexual misconduct. Through the film we follow the three leads and a host of other players through the events of 2016 as they launch a war that will hopefully topple the company’s most inappropriate employees.
The three leads are played by Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie, and all three are excellent. Robbie is particularly impressive in the role of Kayla, and her emotional transition from excited young employee to a victim living in deep fear is an impressive transition to watch. Theron and Kidman similarly display appropriate amounts of emotion and strength, and are compelling as ambitious women that have the power to topple the disgusting CEO, while also wrestling with the guilt that they hadn’t done it sooner.
Roger Ailes is played by John Lithgow, and he is incredible in the role. He is utterly detestable and remains the villain of the piece for the whole film, and yet also manages to display a human side, just as Christian Bale did with Dick Chaney in ‘Vice’. With the aid of some impressive prosthetics and a slimy back-combed wig, the transformation into media pig is complete. The film also stars Allison Janney, Malcolm McDowell, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton and Mark Duplass in various supporting roles.
‘Bombshell’s makeup team has been rightfully nominated at the Oscars for Best Hair and Makeup, and this is due to the amazing amount of transformative prosthetics on show. As mentioned, Lithgow has the most impressive amount of work, but Theron and Kidman have clearly had subtle work done to change their face shapes, and the result is very impressive. Similarly, Malcolm McDowell portrays a surprising additional character (spoilers), and his prosthetic work is the most impressive, making him look identical to the real figure. However, Joker has also got a nomination in this category, so only time will tell which way the Academy decides to grant the award.
The film is creatively shot like a documentary, and felt reminiscent of Adam McKay’s films ‘The Big Short’ and ‘Vice’. Featuring characters breaking the forth wall, narration and handheld cameras with dramatic zooms, it was a creative way of making the story feel real. It also helped sell the sensationalised story, and made it feel almost like a dramatic news report. However, this also is the film’s biggest weakness.
It never felt like the film dug itself deep enough into the subject of misconduct in the workplace. There are scenes (particularly those featuring Margot Robbie) that are terrifyingly uncomfortable to watch, but as a whole the film feels too much like a surface level film, telling the sensational highlights and finishing. At one hour and fifty minutes, it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, but perhaps that’s because it skirted over a lot of the darker details. It’s a film that still shocks, but it does feel rushed in places.
Overall, ‘Bombshell’ is still an impressive film that sports a thrilling cast and an important story. All too relevant, it’s an impressive feature from director Jay Roach who is usually characterised by comedies like ‘Austin Powers’ and ‘Meet The Parents’. While not quite as cutting as ‘Vice’ and not as exposing as ‘Spotlight’, it’s still a film that tackles an important political issue in a powerful way.