Schrader's biopic covers well-documented events: the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army, her transformation into an urban guerrilla, her capture by the FBI, and subsequent trial. Schrader, interested in how she survived, accepts her version and stands clear of the nagging doubts that most of us entertained at the time. There's a Bressonian rigour to this portrayal of the process of brainwashing. Bound, gagged, and blindfolded, Patty is kept in a tiny cupboard for days, after which sensory deprivation is gradually reduced, so that her impressions grow from voices and changes in light to distinctions between her captors. And what a Spartist crew they are - all revolutionary claptrap and middle clas guilt. Reborn as Tania, she takes part in a bank raid, during which she is photographed on security video, gun in hand. Later she takes part in a shootout at a sports store. The SLA are wiped out in a police swoop, but she escapes, living with underground groups till her arrest. It's a lot for trauma to account for. Richardson brings terrific dedication to the role including a perfect American accent, but it's an airless, exhausting film.
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