The Dissident holds few new revelations but presents its case with enough infuriating evidence and storytelling power to make it worthwhile.
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We are daily reminded of the importance of a free media, of free speech. The Dissident is a reminder of how far some governments will go to suppress it.
While not the sweeping historical exploration of “Kingdom of Silence,” Fogel’s film vigorously interrogates the reasons and methods behind Khashoggi’s murder, creating a humane portrait of a fiercely political journalist.
It makes up for a dry and sometimes stilted filmmaking approach through sheer clarity of purpose.
Thorough and competent, The Dissident works as an essential political documentary. It covers Khashoggi’s assassination in detail, and very clearly makes it known that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the one behind it. However, it’s certainly a step down for Fogel, and while its production is glossy and polished, the lack of inertia keeps The Dissident from reaching its full potential.
Although The Dissident is, arguably, unnecessarily juiced-up with the editing and scoring of a Hollywood thriller, the excesses are balanced by the procedural rigour worthy of a crack prosecutor.
Jamal Khashoggi was a complex, even contradictory human being, and his death an affront to freedom and decency. Does the world need two documentaries about him, coming in rapid succession? Maybe not. But you wouldn’t go wrong by watching either one.
For all its wealth of detail and thematic ambition, The Dissident is a good documentary that never quite becomes great. Because Fogel spends a lot of this film re-reporting a story that was in all the papers, all over the world, for months, watching The Dissident at times feels like hearing someone summarize a bestselling murder-mystery novel, while ominous “true crime” music plays incessantly on the soundtrack.
The Dissident is riveting, but it’s also a moving testament to a man whose courage burned too brightly to die with him.
This is a documentary both tragic and poignant, not to mention maddening in that only a few underlings, and not the perpetrators, will pay for the crime committed in Istanbul. The evidence is all here for the world to see.