Silk Road: Film Review

Silk Road

You probably remember reading about Silk Road, the illegal online marketplace for drugs, in the headlines several years ago, right? Well, now you can learn more about its inception and what the heck happened to its founder Ross Ulbricht thanks to this new movie. 

Nick Robinson stars as Ulbricht, a young and driven libertarian who decided to set up an “Amazon for drugs” on the dark web using Tor (a browser) and Bitcoin (the currency) in 2011. This website is a huge hit and becomes a multi-million dollar marketplace, so it soon catches the attention of the FBI and the DEA who are determined to find out the identity of the owner and shut the site down. Disgraced DEA agent Rick Bowden (Jason Clarke), who has recently been relocated to a desk job in cybercrimes after a botched case, sets out to prove his old school approach still works in a world of tech-savvy agents and tries to find Ulbricht first, by any means necessary. 

The film, written and directed by Tiller Russell, tells the broad strokes of the story but doesn’t really dig deep enough and get under the skin of Ulbricht. Despite the lack of specificity and detail, I still found the film fascinating – but the real-life story does a lot of the work as it’s so shocking in itself. I didn’t think Russell delivered a film that matched the outrageousness of the real-life events but it’s still a gripping and sometimes thrilling watch. 

Even though Ulbricht is the most well-known criminal in this movie, the main antagonist is actually Bowden, whose actions surprised me the most. His approach to catching Ulbricht is illegal, morally questionable, and definitely not what an agent should be doing. We’ve seen Clarke play similar characters before but he does such a good job at them and he was very watchable. 

Robinson handled the evolution of Ulbricht very well. He starts off as this idealistic, philosophical type who believes he’s created something absolutely genius and then becomes increasingly obsessed with it as it grows and grows in popularity, with him neglecting his girlfriend Julia (Alexandra Shipp), and he becomes increasingly emotional, dishevelled, and anxious as his world crumbles down around him and the agents close in. 

Shipp doesn’t get to do much beyond being the fed-up neglected girlfriend, which is a shame, while Westworld’s Jimmi Simpson plays FBI agent Chris Talbert, who has no time for Bowden’s intel at meetings, and Paul Walter Hauser has a small but pivotal role as Silk Road user Curtis. 

Silk Road isn’t a terrible film by any means, it just doesn’t quite match up to the level of drama and thrill it could have achieved thanks to the real-life events. The cast did well and it’s still a gripping watch, but the story could have been developed a bit more. 

On digital platforms from Monday 22nd March 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Endless: Film Review

Endless

I decided to give Endless a whirl because I like Alexandra Shipp and think she deserves a better career than she has had thus far but it’s safe to say that Endless isn’t the one to turn things around for her.

She stars as Riley, a high school graduate who is madly in love with her boyfriend Chris (Nicholas Hamilton). After a tragic car accident, Chris dies and finds himself stuck in this weird limbo place, where his loved ones can’t see him. Despite this, the two miraculously find a way to connect.

I wasn’t massively convinced by the concept, but I went in open-minded and was willing to be bowled over by a great story and strong performances. But this film didn’t tick any of those boxes. The story is unoriginal for starters – it’s basically like a young adult version of Ghost – and the plot and script are sappy, cliched, and generic. There is no depth or nuance here whatsoever, it is all so shallow and surface level, which is a shame because there were obvious opportunities for the film to explore grief and letting go more deeply.

And the acting, oh boy. It’s very melodramatic. There was so much over-acting going on, or what felt like over-acting because their behaviour was too over the top, like they were overcompensating for the limp script. Most of the cast was guilty of this, although the worst offender was Famke Janssen as Chris’ grieving mother Lee. It’s a shame because Shipp and Hamilton play likeable enough leads (and I enjoyed DeRon Horton as Chris’ limbo guide Jordan). Shipp gives it all her emotionally, but there wasn’t enough substance there to back her up.

If you’re a fan of Shipp, then there’s no harm in giving this a go. For anybody else, your time would be better spent elsewhere.

Available on digital download from Monday 23rd November

Rating: 2 out of 5.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix – Film Review

After the shambles of 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, I was pretty much done with the franchise and not at all excited for Dark Phoenix. Despite this, I tried to go in with an open mind and it’s actually quite good. It has a lot of problems, but I was entertained for the most part.

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Love, Simon: Film Review

I had a feeling Love, Simon would be up my street and I was right, but I loved it even more than I imagined I would, so be warned that this is a very gushing review.

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X-Men: Apocalypse – Film Review

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The initial reaction to X-Men: Apocalypse was very mixed so I went in with low expectations and this probably helped because I actually liked it. Sure, it’s not as good as Days of Future Past and it’s pretty bleak, but it is still a decent watch with some great performances so I definitely recommend checking it out if you’re into this kind of thing.

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