Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 57 minutes, Director – Bryan Fogel
Documentary looking into the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018.
If you think that Tom Cruise’s increasingly deadly stunts in the Mission: Impossible franchise are tense, or the risk of making a noise in A Quiet Place, try tweeting against the Saudi government. It’s this line that Bryan Fogel’s The Dissident – his follow-up to the Oscar winning Icarus – takes as it delves into the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018. This is far from a direct line, it’s a messy one filled with twists, turns, diversions and seemingly never an end, yet Fogel manages to craft a finely told narrative with the various different angles that he has. Through interviews with people involved with the Turkish government, fellow journalists and more a shocking timeline of characters and events is gradually formed creating a gripping course that has you glued to the screen. Far from a standard documentary, Fogel’s latest plays out as more of a thriller than anything else.
Acting not just a s a series of interviews or looking into a topic The Dissident acts as a piece of investigative journalism. Thorough and focused it often feels like a highly cinematic piece from the This American Life team. It’s not long until you get so invested in the spiralling story that’s taking place that you find yourself digging your fingers into the seat in tension. Even the naturally jumpy and grainy quality of CCTV footage adds tension, and a slight fear factor. By the time a simple transcript of events comes up the feeling that runs through the viewer is that of pure terror. It’s testament to the craft of Fogel’s film and the expert pacing that runs throughout it, both as a documentary and a general feature this is a truly sensational piece of filmmaking.
Long after the credits roll shockwaves of detail continue to float around the mind with a lasting effect, this is undeniably a film that will stay with you for a while as it takes time to fully settle in. The themes of “Learn more. Take action. Make a difference” ring throughout as the film delves into Khashoggi’s journalism for various sources, including The Washington Post and his interactions on Twitter with other critics of the Saudi government, some of whom are interviewed in the film and truly reveal a dark world, more than we already knew the social media platform to be. Some aspects of which are virtually recreated – faces gradually turning to the camera putting you further into a state of fear as they look into you, even more impactful due to the role they play in the central focus of the film.
Everything is kept tight and focused as the film explores Kahshoggi’s career and work as a journalist. His fight for freedom of speech and the opportunity to criticise those in power. This film about his assassination is as passionate as his fight for just this cause, turning this into the intense and pacey drama that is laid out over the almost two hour run-time. Such feelings are heightened by Adam Peters brilliant, stirring score that swirls in the background of many scenes, montages and recreations, capturing the exact feeling that the film is trying to get across and simply increasing the effect that it has on the viewer. Overall, everything creates a gripping narrative, filled with fear and tension as the highly cinematic investigation goes deeper and deeper into the subject matter, with power, shock and fine craft and precision.
Forming an expertly told narrative The Dissident is a sensational investigative documentary, equally tense and shocking it’ll certainly leave shockwaves long after its highly cinematic detail is finished.