16 January 2020 (released)
16 January 2020
Rather unusually for Hollywood, the events explored in Bombshell take place in fairly recent history.
But it seems director Jay Roach was very keen to bring details of the scandal to light as quickly as possible, even before the Time's Up and #MeToo movements generated momentum in late 2017, with production on the flick kicking off following former Fox News boss Roger Ailes's death in May of that year.
Set in the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Bombshell offers a revealing look into the gender politics of the conservative news network while also exploring the accounts of several women at Fox News who set about exposing Ailes, as played by John Lithgow, for sexual harassment.
The plot focuses on three women; Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), who is wrestling with the idea of filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes but realises she will need other employees to come forward in order to back her claims, Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), who is juggling negative media attention following a heated interview with Donald Trump while also contemplating whether she can aid Carlson's case, and Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), a composite character, who works as an associate producer at the network but is seeking to rise up the ranks as quickly as possible and become a presenter.
To delve into each figure's story, screenwriter Charles Randolph uses real news footage and other visual devices to quickly get to the heart of some pretty complicated situations.
The characters also break the fourth wall - with the fast-paced narrative structure reminiscent of 2015's The Big Short at points - but that's perhaps no surprise considering Randolph served as co-writer on that film too.
Kidman does a good job of expressing Carlson's inner turmoil over keeping her job and comfortable lifestyle, whilst simultaneously conveying the sexism female employees at the company faced, especially in relation to appearances and the depiction of their bodies on camera.
And no stranger to transforming her looks for film roles, Theron is barely recognisable in a blonde wig and facial prosthetics. She really does resemble Kelly, with the actress even perfecting her walk and accent. Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan, and Vivian Baker on the hair and make-up team deserve their recent Oscar nomination.
Meanwhile, Robbie's take on "Christian influencer" Pospisil proves to be captivating, especially when she is faced with the dilemma of progressing her career or abiding by her moral code.
A scene in which she meets with Ailes in his office demonstrates just how much power he could wield over women in the company and exactly how hostile the work environment could be.
But while Robbie is brilliant at conveying emotion in one of the most shocking moments in the film, her character feels a little underdeveloped, especially in relation to her conservative background and sexuality.
Elsewhere, be sure to watch out for Malcolm McDowell as Rupert Murdoch, Allison Janney as Ailes's legal counsel Susan Estrich, and Kate McKinnon as Jess Carr, who does an excellent job of portraying a gay woman who is miserable in her work but unable to get a foot in the door at any other network because of her Fox ties.
And even though some of the "bombshells" in the movie may not be too shocking, especially to those who followed the news headlines at the time, the top-notch performances and pacy 109-minute runtime make Bombshell well worth the watch.