Film Review: No

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No Sony Pictures Classics

How do you overthrow a dictatorship? If you thought armed insurrection or mass protests were the answer, think again. In this sharp, darkly humorous political thriller about Chile’s 1989 referendum on the leadership of Augusto Pinochet, filmmaker Pablo Larrain shows how the superficial tools of popular mass media–rainbows, catchy jingles, and celebrity endorsements–upended an autocracy. The film follows skateboard-riding ad-man René Saavedra (terrific Mexican actor Gael García Bernal), as he comes up with the upbeat Coca-Cola-inspired commercials to effect the outcome of the election. Facing resistance from the Communists who hired him and the authorities who attempt to sabotage him, Saavedra struggles against all odds to change the future of a nation. Larrain nails period details with a sardonic specificity–from microwaves to “We Are the World”–but most of all, his film brilliantly captures his country’s tense, unsteady transition from brutal tyranny to tentative democracy.

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