Sundance 2021 Review: Prime Time

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde


SYNOPSIS: New Year’s Eve 1999. Twenty-year-old Sebastian, armed with a gun, hijacks a TV studio and takes two hostages a famous TV presenter and a security guard. His plan? No one seems to know, including Sebastian himself. His demand to deliver his message, whatever that may be, via live broadcast is repeatedly thwarted by an uncertain police force and an egotistical network chairman. As the night wears on, Sebastian and the hostages bond in unexpected ways, while those in power fumble to restore order.

REVIEW: Filmmaker, Jakub Piątek, misses the mark one this. It might have been trying to tell a bigger story but it just ended up being vacuous. I love movies that are usually confined in one location and learning that this was set in 1999 I thought it could bring something different into the picture. Instead, it follows up many of the tropes of hostage-movies (e.g. Money Monster, Dog Day Afternoon), and adds nothing new to the landscape. 

Those caveats aside Bartosz Bielenia, who you might have seen in the fantastic 2019 Feature Film Corpus Christi, elevates Prime Time. A film that simply would not work without him. His performance is the cohesive glue that holds everything together while revealing very little about his character, Sebastian. While Bielenia’s performance elevates those around him, it fails to make me care about the people he took hostage and the rapport that they end up building. 

Prime Time doesn’t deliver on the implied thrills it’s synopsis indicated it may contain. The ending is perplexing in the most meaningless way. I do commend Piatek and his crew for pulling this off during the pandemic but that’s not enough of a reason to overlook it’s drawbacks or make me like it. This is the second film shot during the pandemic that I’ve seen at Sundance 2021 and did not enjoy (the first one being How it Ends).  

Prime Time Trailer

Prime Time is currently playing at the Sundance 2021 Film Festival

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