Film Review – Attica (2021)

Title – Attica (2021) 

Directors – Stanley Nelson (Miles Davis: Birth of Cool) & Traci Curry (feature debut) 

Cast – Richard Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, Clarence B. Jones 

Plot – Documents and examines the 1971 prison siege at the American prison of Attica, where the countries underlying issues with racism and systematic violence came to a shocking head. 

“This is not history, this is America” 

Review by Eddie on 03/08/2022

Arguably most well known in common occurrences as the word famously uttered as a rallying cry by Al Pacino’s bank robber in crime classic Dog Day Afternoon, the tragic siege at Attica Correctional Facility in uncompromisingly examined here in Stanley Nelson and Traci Curry’s Showtime documentary feature that was recently nominated for a Best Documentary Academy Award at the 2022 Oscar ceremony. 

Unafraid to show the Attica incident in a warts and all fashion, Nixon and Curry collate a large collection of inmates, officers and other figures present at the time of the 1971 event to talk about their first hand experiences close to or behind the walls of the facility where prison inmates had overtaken the prison and were holding guards captive on the national stage as they demanded better treatment in what was being described as inhumane conditions they were otherwise facing in the American incarceration system. 

Not interested in exploring much behind the history of the Attica prison itself or the years worth of lead up to the eventual explosion of events, Attica does miss a chance to establish itself with a foundation or groundwork of context as it instead gets stuck straight into the actual siege events that took place over a number of days and it feels like Nelson and Curry missed out on allowing their film to gain traction before delving straight into the heavy hitting aspects of the siege that still shock to this day 50 years on. 

For anyone unaware of exactly what went down in the infamous moment in American history explored here, they’re undoubtedly in for an extreme shock at just what took place on the soil of the land of the free and you sense that while some things have certainly changed, there’s still a lot of issues that plagued the system in 1971 that still exist today, making Attica as an incident and a film a warning as to just what can happen when cooler heads and correct decisions are not adhered too. 

Despite the power within the true life story and honest insights from real life survivors and participants of the events, as a documentary Attica narrows its focus too quickly and narrowly and for this it feels as though its lacking a certain craftsmanship and design, a key aspect that would’ve made it a more all round package not just a warning to us all what a failure of communication looks like in all its horror. 

Final Say – 

A tragic and unforgettable event is explored in a more forgettable and paint by numbers fashion, Attica is a grizzly look back at the events of 1971 but not the quintessential all round experience one might’ve hoped for when deep diving into the pre and post effects of what occurred and why. 

3 makeshift camps out of 5 

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