After he won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2018 for Icarus, Bryan Fogel’s new documentary is The Dissident, an important but rather exhaustive piece of filmmaking. The film details the state-sanctioned murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and offers nothing new in the process. However, some gripping details, such as how far the conspiracy of his murder goes, are enough to keep you engaged. But the point is not that it attempts to shed new light, but rather that it’s a call to arms: don’t to allow a nation to get away with blatant murder. By highlighting the scale of the conspiracy surrounding his murder, Fogel hopes to provoke a reaction that goes beyond the theatre itself.
With this scale leading to so many rabbit holes Fogel has to highlight, the spectrum of issues almost becomes too much. The abounding subject matter causes the film to lose its coherence as you are provoked to ask questions but not given enough time to attempt to answer them. It’s almost best watched on a laptop, as the need to stop and pause the film just to search for what the film is so zealously covering is frequent. To his credit, the film did go beyond the theatre. It does take a few hours to gather your thoughts, but that for me is the sign of a film worth seeing.