This Is Your Death (2017)

  • Time: 105 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Giancarlo Esposito
  • Cast: Josh Duhamel, Famke Janssen, Giancarlo Esposito, James Franco, Sarah Wayne Callies


An unsettling look at reality T.V. where a disturbing hit game show has its contestants ending their lives for the public’s enjoyment.

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  • It’s hard to believe that it’s been 41 years since Paddy Chayefsky’s scabrously satirical Network was released, and even harder to believe that very few, if any, films have come along to match its brilliant prescience. This Is Your Death (aka The Show), actor Giancarlo Esposito’s second directorial effort, certainly tries its best but, where Network was revolutionary and insightful, This Is Your Death is a clunky cascade of tepid drivel.

    Josh Duhamel stars as Adam Rogers, the host of a Bachelor-type show called Married to a Millionaire, who suddenly finds his conscience twigged when the jilted runner-up shoots her not-husband-to-be before turning the gun on herself. All on live TV. The next day, when Adam appears on Morning Show USA, he goes off-script – instead of parroting the network’s not-our-fault message, he delivers a mea culpa that condemns himself, his network, and the audiences who tune in. It’s Adam’s Howard Beale moment – he’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore.

    Except he does, though he believes his decision to be selfless rather than self-serving when his boss Ilana Katz (Famke Janssen), keen to cash in on the tidal wave of publicity from Adam’s rant, enlists him to present a new show, This Is Your Death, where contestants carry out their suicidal tendencies in front of a studio audience on live television. Adam, insisting that he’s done exploiting people for the sake of ratings and for being a mouthpiece for the network’s garbage programming, wants the show to be an affirmation of life, for the contestants’ deaths to serve a higher purpose.

    If your eyes haven’t completely loosed themselves from their sockets from rolling back so much, then perhaps the remaining absurdities and tonal dissonance might be easier to overlook. Screenwriters Noah Pink and Kenny Yakkel obviously worship at the altar of Chayefsky, but they don’t know quite how to shape the film. The narrative arc makes sense even if the characterisation and performances don’t necessarily support it. The shifting sands of Adam’s moral dilemma fail to have much resonance, partly because the character’s motivations seem contradictory and mostly because Duhamel, charismatic as he is, isn’t a resourceful enough actor to create the complexities and so very little sympathy is stirred when he receives his inevitable comeuppance.

    Yet it’s not all on Duhamel. Esposito’s direction is unremarkable and he leans in rather heavily on the sanctimony when the film could have benefited from a more bloodthirsty and castigating tone. Performances are fairly generic though Sarah Wayne Callies as Adam’s sister puts in an effortful portrayal whilst Janssen is convincingly steely.

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