Sunday, 19 April 2015

HOT DOCS 2015 - (T)ERROR - Review By Greg Klymkiw *****

(T)ERROR (2015)
Dir. David Felix Sutcliffe, Lyric R. Cabral

Review By Greg Klymkiw

This is one blistering, nerve-jangling political thriller, not unlike the kind Costa-Gavras (Z, State of Siege) and Alan J. Pakula (The Parallax View) used to make - dark, scary and tingling with urgency, borrowing dollops of ennui from espionage pictures like Martin Ritt's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and serving it up in a tidy, almost neorealist package.

Shariff Torres is an informant for the FBI. His job is to root out terrorists. Well, not just terrorists, but anyone who even sympathizes with them, no matter how remotely. Besides, even if that target is not a terrorist, the FBI could really care less. It's always been very good at building a fake case to nail non-criminals. After all, they need to keep their arrest stats up to ensure the holders of the purse strings that their usefulness as a crime-busting agency is still vital. As such, they'll continue to get the ever-rising carte-blanche support from the government.

It's the American Way. (And Canadians, don't get all smug about this. Our Nazi Prime Minister Stephen Harper is trying to ram through sweeping anti-terrorist powers that might make our neighbours to the South look positively benign.)

Sharif Torres has been an informant for two decades. Since America's spurious "War on Terror" began, his duties are becoming ever-dangerous and the guilt he associates with what he's doing to innocent American Muslims is weighing heavily upon him. He'd almost not care about himself; he's in mighty deep, but he has a young son and in this dirty business, family is how "they" get you. He's going to do one last big job, but how easy will it be to "retire" in relative peace?

The eyes of "terror" are always upon him, but who is more terrifying? The Terrorists (if they genuinely exist at all, at least to the degrees with which they're sought out)? Or the FBI?

Torres decides that the best thing to do is make one last cash grab, but in so doing, betray the corrupt hand that feeds him. He invites a documentary film crew to follow him around and give them unprecedented access to espionage activities as well as the lengths to which the FBI will go to nabbing, charging and incarcerating whomever they choose.

The crew captures all the ins and outs of espionage activity. Sometimes, what transpires is so ludicrous and appalling that you find it hard to believe. In fact, if this were a dramatic thriller, you might actually find yourself saying, "I don't buy this."

But you do. You buy it hook, line and sinker; not just because the filmmaking is so first-rate, but because this is, in fact, a documentary. Torres is a real spy and his victims are real and the filmmakers are very, very real. David Felix Sutliffe (director of the powerful Adama) and his co-filmmaker Lyric R. Cabral are indeed the documentary crew whom Torres has chosen to detail his actions as dictated by the FBI.

I can assure you, there are few documentaries which ever get so close to such subjects and subject matter and watching (T)ERROR is pure edge-of-your-seat suspense.

This is one scary movie, but even more so when the filmmakers decide to also follow the target of Torres's surveillance. "What the fuck?" you might find yourself exclaiming out loud. They're following the target, too?

(T)ERROR is quite unlike any documentary ever made. It's a film about counterterrorism in which the spy and his target become subjects of the filmmakers - up close and personal. After seeing it, I'm still chilled to the bone. Watching it is so creepy, so horrifying, so downright jaw-agape shocking, you might even consider wearing a pair of adult diapers in case you-know-what is scared right out of you.

(T)ERROR receives its International Premiere at Hot Docs 2015. For info visit the Hot Docs website HERE.