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The New Radical Review

The New Radical is a 2017 documentary about uncompromising millennial radicals from the United States and the United Kingdom who attack the system through dangerous technological means.

Since the very first moment when the very first government had its very first secret, there have been those who have tried to expose it. Housing and securing intelligence that those in power consider dangerous, inflammatory, or regarding national security from those they rule over has created an entire industry that strives only to keep it all in check, with every new generation offering threats to that establishment, seeking to topple it. None more so than in the rise of the internet, where the public has been steadily exposed to greater and greater access. So much so, in fact, there is an almost inherent expectancy to our interactions with this resource. We ask, and it answers.

Countless ‘underground’ websites have taken to task the job of tapping into and spreading classified information, with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, and Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee turned whistleblower or traitor, depending on whom you ask, the current de facto faces of this movement. Furthermore, in the short few decades that the internet has been open, there has been a parallel culture of gun violence running alongside it, with mass shootings dominating the media. While the frequency of these incidents have only slightly increased since the 1970s, the numbers of victims involved has seen a significant rise. What these all too troubling situations always inspire though is debate, whether more control is necessary in limiting or removing these weapons from society.

Enter Cody Wilson who, using technologies available online, made a 3D printable plastic gun and posted the formula on his YouTube channel and website, calling it a serial number-free Liberator Gun, named after a one-shot pistol made by the United States during World War II and designed to be dropped over occupied countries for resistance fighters. This is a clue to what drives Wilson. Naturally, his gun caused a stir, especially in the wave of some particularly disturbing school shootings. The government clamped down, and the first printer company he planned to build it on, repossessed the equipment. Undaunted, he moved forward and Adam Bhala Lough‘s new film The New Radical takes a lengthy look into who Wilson is and how he became the center of a Constitutional fight. 

We learn that Wilson is indeed easy to label as ‘radical’, the film even offering a dictionary definition at the start, working hard to frame our view before we even meet him. He is undoubtedly an intelligent man who has taken an extremely divergent look at the world, what many might feel is anarchistic. Liberty for him means that all things are open and yes, that means people can abuse responsibly and bad things will happen, but he and his partner Amir Taaki, a British programmer, have developed a Bitcoin app called Dark Wallet to allow users to go dark as it were and join their crusade to free people from what they feel are controlling governments.

Near the start, we see a clip of none other than Glenn Beck interviewing Wilson, asking him, and us, if he is a hero or a villain, a purposefully incendiary prompt that Lough deftly refrains from giving a definitive answer. This is a film that wisely remains a fly on the wall, giving voice to many on both sides of the issue, leaving it up to us to decide, even as most of it orbits around Wilson. Surely though, those going in are already on one side and the film will do little to sway, serving only to further prop up what one already believes. It did so for me. Lough offers plenty of oppositional voices to Wilson and Taaki, but it’s never unbalanced in terms of time, however, for the discriminating viewer, choices are easy to make. Taaki is, as described by Wilson, a bizarre cartoon, the perfect anarchist radical that looks great on TV and I myself couldn’t help but see some obviousness about him as he lives in warehouse spaces with prophetic scribbles on the wall, looking like a visual representation of the expected persona. That said, the journey through their mindset is compelling.

The film unfolds mostly in a timeline fashion as it tracks these men, covered events, and others, that have come under a larger light as the internet itself has given them a mounting audience while the media offers them wide exposure (it’s interspersed with clips of coverage after shootings and President Obama’s impassioned reactions). Wilson, for me, is never a sympathetic figure, as he stands up for people like Ross Ulbricht, whose website Silk Road, a Bitcoin operated drug trafficking operation, landed him in jail for life. He is tactical, always obfuscating the point with a highly skilled and practiced approach. He’s a master at dissecting conversation. What’s interesting though, is how easy it is to see how, for many, he and others would be seen as ‘heroes’, as a growing community subscribes to this ‘liberated’ world where all technology is freed to the masses. When a First Amendment argument is made that the protection of the right to post a chocolate chip cookie recipe is the same as protecting the right to post a recipe to make a non-registered gun, you can almost feel the fissure widen. It’s remarks like this throughout, which stoke the fire.

The New Radical is a complex, information-heavy, and lengthy work, but it does offer a very thorough examination into what this story is all about. Composer Clint Mansell, with a long list of credits to his name, including Moon, Requiem For a Dream, and Black Swan, lends another terrific score to this, giving it a lot of urgency. There is much to consider when it’s over, a well-made film that is important simply for painting a picture that demands to be explored.

The New Radical opens theatrically in New York and LA on December 1st, VOD on December 5th


The New Radical Review

Movie description: The New Radical is a 2017 documentary about uncompromising millennial radicals from the United States and the United Kingdom who attack the system through dangerous technological means.

Director(s): Adam Bhala Lough

Actor(s): Amir Taaki, Cody Wilson

Genre: Documentary

  • Our Score
User Rating 5 (1 vote)
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