The Dissident by Bryan Fogel [10/10]

Can a documentary culminating in (no, not even culminating in, rather originating with) the 2018 chopping up of the body of renegade Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Istambul, on the direct orders of Saudi Crown Prince MBS (Mohammed bin Salman)—all of this fully known to me—possibly hold interest? Fear not, earnest moviegoer: “The Dissident” trumps all expectations and is a spellbinding masterpiece, quite the most impactful movie I have seen so far in 2021. Director and co-writer Bryan Fogel has assembled a remarkable array of interviewees, the most notable being Kashoggi’s fiancee and a Turkish prosecutor, and arranged a mosaic of news clips, talking heads, surveillance footage, audio transcripts, and backup material into a fascinating narrative. Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi exile now morphed into a dissident Youtube star, provides a compelling reflection on Kashoggi, his life and philosophy and courage. Fogel’s script and direction never take a misstep. In the end, The Dissident becomes a moving exploration of morality and injustice and justice sought, an exploration that rivets one to the screen far more than the next spy thriller.

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