I love it when I come across movies randomly, and they end up being unexpectedly good. When I first saw Who Am I – No System Is Safe, I did so because of its cover. I figured it was another one of those stupid horror movies I fancy for some reason. Sometimes I indulge in mindless “horror,” I guess. In any case, I was sorely mistaken.
A German-language film starring Tom Schilling, Elyas M’Barek, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Antoine Monot Jr, and Trine Dyrholm, Who Am I is the story of Benjamin Engel, a proficient computer whiz, who meets and befriends free-spirited and brazen Max, the head of a group of computer hackers. As CLAY (Clowns Laughing At You), the four guys set out to make a name for themselves in the underground hacking universe only to get mixed up in something much bigger than them.
Tom Schilling stars as Benjamin, a milennial, one with a broken family and a relatively forgettable childhood — the perfect recipe for a superhero, as he says. In his quest to claim the heart if his childhood crush, Marie (Hannah Herzsprung), he finally finds a group he identifies with. Schilling does a very good job with the role, as he exemplifies the socially-awkward nature of his character as well as his longing and need to find people he that understood him. I did have a couple of people in mind that could have possibly done a better job, but Schilling‘s authentic delivery is not to be undermined.
What’s exceptional about Benjamin (the character, that is) is that he is cleverly written to appeal to every kid out there who’s ever felt like they’ve passed through life unnoticed. This need to break out of the bubble of invisibility and solidify one’s place among all those around is something I think we’ve all wanted at one point or another. The entire film feels like Benjamin finally standing up to the bully that’s tormented him his entire life — himself. And that makes him an extremely relatable lead character.
Elyas M’Barek predominantly stars opposite Schilling. To me, M’Barek did the best job with his role. He seemed to ease into it effortlessly, playing that guy you always wanted to be best friends with, a true rebel that walked the walk and did his best to stand up to the system (and the people) that oppressed him. In short, he was Benjamin’s complete counter-part. What I actually appreciated most about Max was that he wasn’t a cliché bad guy — one you’d think is good only to be priven otherwise later. From the get-go, the viewer is made aware that Max is a bit of a rulebreaker (okay, a lot), but when it comes down to it, he’s mostly a nice guy, and retains that characteristic all throughout the movie. M’Barek‘s cheeky persona also comes through, adding to the allure of his whimsical and exciting undertone.
Trine Dyrholm lends her talents as Hanne Lindberg, a detective who dabbles in crimes involving cyberhacking. She compliments the performances of her fellow actors and actresses well, serving as the voice of justice and reason in the film. She seems to need to solve the case more than she wants to for multiple reasons, and while the filmmakers use that to account for the film’s shortcomings, I thought that, despite its doing well to reflect human desperation (or nature, if you will), it dented an otherwise extremely interesting premise.
And that brings me to the major flaw of the film: plot inconsistencies. This is especially evident around the end. Although these aren’t major inconsistencies, they’re still there, and they make you challenge the plot’s direction. I mean if I can point it out a few errors, a detective should as well.
This inconsistency makes the film a bit disoriented. The editing is quite good in the movie considering the amount of overlapping scenes in it, but it is that same overlap that makes you confused at times. Benjamin looks back at his entire story, and sometimes the time between the past and present doesn’t add up, furthering confusion.
That said, director Baran Bo Odar does an otherwise great job. The film looks and feels like a thriller, and the way the characters are written and projected is fantastic. Some shots looked absolutely beautiful. I especially liked his self-referential style. From the play with the ice-cubes in the beginning to the movie poster on the wall at the end, Odar teases viewers here and there with crucial information about his own film.
The movie benefits from Odar‘s writing as well. It makes powerful statements about security, hypocrisy, cruelty, and of course, social engineering. I was particularly fond of the superhero paradigm used throughout the film. It’s a different sort of superman he writes about.
The score of the film grabs your attention. It’s a perfect mix of underground music that fits perfectly with the premise — specifically the underground world of hacking portrayed in the movie. Composer Michael Kamm is a great addition to the cast and crew that worked on making this film happen.
With an extremely interesting plotline, a killer ending, great acting, music, and script, it should go without saying that I recommend this movie to you. Is it a fantastic movie? Not exactly, but it has some fantastic elements to it that overshadow its flaws. In any case, Who Am I – No System is Safe is one of the best of its genre I’ve seen in a long while.
Image Sources: imdb.com, tiff.net, clevelandfilm.org, weekendnotes.com, joblo.com, gb-film.com
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