Guilty of a kind of soft sexism that implies that an attractive, waiflike terrorist is also a compelling one, Day Night Day Night brings plenty of shakycam immediacy and a cute face to what seems to be zero point of view. The movie, by NYU grad Julia Loktev, certainly ramps up the tension, propelling its docile, American protagonist (Williams, identified only as “She” in the credits) toward her destination, Times Square, where she intends to blow herself up with a backpack bomb. We’ve spent the first half of the film in a New Jersey motel room, where She submits to the ministrations of a conspicuously multiracial team of masked planners. She may be avenging a baby brother. She may be a political radical. She may be bored. It’s experimental.
There’s a danger in confusing this kind of softheaded opaqueness for the crystal clarity of United 93, which actually teases out plenty of commentary—particularly on bureaucratic impotency—from chaos. Instead, Loktev treats us to blankly banal scenes of preparation (two teeth cleanings!) while coyly avoiding any mention of motive or sect. Williams, though a sympathetic presence, has nothing to work with; when Loktev succumbs to Hollywood devices like a faulty trigger, you’ll feel jerked around. (Now playing; IFC Center.) — Joshua Rothkopf