Pacifiction (2022)

Pacifiction (2022)

This moody fever dream of a movie is undoubtedly a challenging watch, but there is much to hypnotize you through if you let it



France, French Polynesia
English, French, Portuguese
Drama, Thriller
Benoit Magimel, Sergi Lopez
166 min


Not so much an adrenaline rush as an adrenaline drip

What it's about

There’s trouble in paradise on the tropical island of Tahiti, where the French High Commissioner attempts to get to the bottom of disconcerting rumors about nuclear testing.

The take

It doesn’t feel quite right to call Pacifiction a political thriller — at 2 hours 45 minutes and with an unhurried, dreamlike pace, it’s hardly the adrenaline rush that that categorization suggests. But Albert Serra’s film is still suffused with all the paranoia and intrigue that the genre promises, just at a slower burn. The specters of colonialism and nuclear apocalypse hang low over the movie, which is set in an idyllic Tahiti, where Benoît Magimel’s Monsieur De Roller is stationed as France’s outgoing High Commissioner, a bureaucratic relic of the country’s imperialist history. As shady figures and strange rumors about a military submarine begin to arrive on the island, a paranoid De Roller struggles to exert political control — and, in the process, seems to lose some of his own sanity. With an ethereal score, defiantly murky plot, hallucinatory cinematography, and some of humanity’s greatest horrors hanging over it like a pall, Pacifiction feels like a fever dream in the truest sense.

What stands out

Much of Pacifiction’s cast is made up of terrific local non-professional actors, but the standout by far is Pahoa Mahagafanau, who plays Shannah, a Māhū (third-gender) hotel receptionist who quickly slides into a central role in whatever it is that’s going on over the film’s runtime. Shannah’s stratospheric social mobility, though sudden, makes complete sense in the film because Mahagafanau’s is the kind of beguiling presence you instantly gravitate towards — it’s that of a born star.


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