9/11 changed the world forever back in 2001 and the shockwaves it sent around the globe are still being felt today, even as we face different threats and enemies along the way. Nothing has ever been the same and even though over the last year we have all fought invisible enemy tensions still remain, political, social, and economic reverberations are still as dangerous and fraught as ever and our grip on the growing tensions in the Middle East remain of great concern. Indeed, not just did it change our world, both on the surface and throughout our day-to-day lives but it altered our fight back against those who seek to do us harm.
Across the news and other media, we have seen the fallout of Guantanamo Bay and other prisons with all their secrets, increasingly hostile places that are used to gain intel by any means juxtaposed with the other “means” across the globe. But one of the biggest fights is combating the grooming of young adults, particularly women from the US and UK, by so-called Islamic State and utilising the Internet to harness their methods. The World Wide Web is a frightening and harsh enough place as it is, particularly for younger people, but it’s becoming more and more commonplace for such tactics to be used.
Timur Bekmambetov (remember him?) has taken the idea one step further and, somewhat jumping on the bandwagon of using the big screen to showcase the small, designs a film that utilises computer screens to show just how easy such practices have become, with young, hungry reporter Amy (Valene Kane) at the centre. She wants to tell the story and immerses herself into a fake profile to lure one such groomer, Abu Bilel (Shazad Latif), into telling the truth about exactly what goes on.
Where the use of Zoom in countless films over the last year has provided both a creative outlet and challenge for numerous filmmakers and the fad still has just enough juice left in the tank, the computer screen-as-a-film fashion has worn thin, no matter what the subject matter. Bekmambetov, a skilled director when it comes to thrilling, thought-provoking narratives, does his best to keep this one ticking over and provides some shocking moments, but at the mercy of a scenario that has been completely played out, it just doesn’t work the same and becomes increasingly silly when told “plainly”, it would have done a much better job, dramatically and narratively.
Both Kane and Latif shine in their respective roles and do well to flesh out their characters and keep our interest as best they can, but they too fall foul of the setup and, much like the film, their creativity dwindles as it heads to its rather insipid finale. A story of this importance, of this much debate and posturing, deserved better than being reduced to a Skype call and while there are flourishes to be had, it’s a rather tedious whole when all is said and done.
Mystery, Thriller | USA, 2018 | 15 | 6th August 2021 (UK) | Cinema | Universal Pictures | Dir.Timur Bekmambetov | Valene Kane, Shazad Latif, Morgan Watkins, Christine Adams