This pretty extraordinary non-fiction movie was accomplished months earlier than the invasion of Ukraine started, however with Russia now making every day front-page information, it couldn’t really feel timelier. Here’s a first-hand account of what it means to go up in opposition to President Putin, to stake your very livelihood and even life in opposition to the state — delivered not as a dry, stuffy BBC procedural however as a tense political thriller in essentially the most cinematic custom, as if directed by Alan J. Pakula or Paul Greengrass.
The assassination try is the occasion round which the film hangs, with the primary half establishing how and why Navalny has turn out to be such a thorn within the Kremlin’s aspect. Filmmaker Daniel Roher enjoys seemingly unfettered entry to the people hero and his workforce, portray a vivid ground-level image of life underneath an oppressive regime that appears to stamp out all dissent, and the ways required to withstand it. Navalny is a powerful, charismatic determine, who takes threats in opposition to his life and household in his stride, with pragmatism and good humour. (The filmmakers are additionally seemingly unafraid of displaying his PR-conscious aspect, or his darker previous sharing the stage with the far-right.)
Such footage is a present to any filmmaker; it’s the sort of factor that is likely to be written off as unrealistic if it have been written in a script.
The second half of the movie offers with the poisoning: making actuality an occasion most of us would solely be conversant in from a headline. On-screen titles like “Two Days Earlier than Poisoning” ramp up the stress, as Navalny all of the sudden falls sick and undergoes a chaotic hospital remedy, with Russian docs issuing post-truths to the press. Notable is his incredulous response upon finally waking up from his coma: “What the fuck?” he cries. “Poisoned? If you wish to kill somebody, you must simply shoot them!”
His workforce then joins forces with Christo Grozev, a relentless investigative journalist who follows the info path to establish Russian FSB brokers who, in all probability, carried out the assassination try. This results in the movie’s most extraordinary sequence, the place Navalny efficiently prank-calls one of many scientists suspected of poisoning him, by pretending to be his superior. As his workforce listens in, gobsmacked, the canary sings, providing a blow-by-blow account of how the operation failed. It’s a surprising smoking gun.
Such footage is a present to any filmmaker; it’s the sort of factor that is likely to be written off as unrealistic if it have been written in a script. Generally that gesturing in direction of style filmmaking comes off as somewhat blunt — the rating is pure Hollywood, for instance, and on-screen graphics bear as a lot subtlety as a current Bond movie — however the stage of entry to their man, proper up to date the place Navalny is apprehended at passport management for his return to Russia, is outstanding. At a time when your complete world is reckoning with Russia in a single sense or one other, this can be a searing account of the politician who got here closest to ruffling Putin’s feathers and almost died for it. Documentary filmmaking is never this pressing or apt.