Title aside, there’s nothing long-winded about Baran bo Odar’s Who Am I – No System is Safe. From scene to scene Odar wants to entertain, to pull us in and drag us along under the wheels of an impressive and enjoyable cyber-thriller.
Benjamin (Tom Schilling) is a nobody with a talent for hacking and magic, his dream: to be a top cyber criminal. After being caught and put on community service he becomes part of an unlikely but increasingly notorious cyber cell called CLAY with their sights set on impressing the mysterious MRX.
Though Odar clearly wants to give some kind of realistic portrait of the online world (one that steers clear of Hackers’ space-invaders-techno-mess) he understands hacking isn’t exactly a glamorous practice. Audiences don’t want to watch people sitting on a computer all day, so he gives in to the rock-star daydream pretty quickly, yet he does it without scrapping the film’s potential for creative, intelligent ideas and enjoyable character dynamics.
The film doesn’t manage to stay away from inevitable The Dark Knight influences found in many contemporary thrillers, wide shots of night-time urbania city-scapes painted in office lights and soundtracking composed of Zimmer-like percussion strings. Who Am I’s band of brothers are a shaky vehicle too, out-and-out lads with a penchant for drugs and fast cars, rarely characters, more facets of the hacker thriller. Which is a shame when the other side of the coin is led so well by the cold-blooded cop Hanne Lindberg, an excellent turn from Danish star Trine Dyrholm.
For instance, Odar has cleverly tackled the dull problem of filming online activity without getting all 90’s and proving he has no idea what he’s doing. Instead the camera takes us on board a seedy train filled with masked and hooded hackers, voice boxes pop up as messages are typed, and – depending on the situation- crowds disperse and form around ostracised hackers. It’s an unnerving but terrific way to handle the idea.
In the end, a mash-up of classic thriller-twists leaves the viewer slightly disassociated from this enjoyable slice of cyber-adventure. Desperation to wind up all its strands leaves the film in an arguably compromised position, but the flagrant hoodwinking is appreciable on some level. As are the numerous break-neck moments of cat and mouse between not simply CLAY and Lindberg, but Benjamin and the audience.
A debauched caricature of the hacker lifestyle through the lens of break-neck cyber thriller, Who Am I is fun, well-executed, and surprisingly sharp.