Directed by Jack Bryan, this documentary starts by summarizing Vladimir V. Putin’s career through the time of his election as Russia’s president. In the heaps of interviews, video clips and flow charts that follow, we hear of links between Mr. Putin and Donald J. Trump; of extensive work done by Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, for Russia; and of foreign shell companies that launder funds for organized crime.
This formidable film is sometimes zealous to a fault: The credits cite more than 200 sources of archival material, from The Washington Post to YouTube channels. It’s a lot to take in, as names and numbers zip by, yet missing some of its points may be healthy. To explore every moment is to risk overdosing on outrage.
“Is This the Documentary That Can Take Down Trump?” asks the headline of a recent article on the film in Vanity Fair. The answer: probably not. Much of what’s asserted here has already been reported elsewhere. Yet if, by the end, you’re angry about what you’ve seen — and you’re likely to be — Mr. Bryan will probably be pleased.
Director Jack Bryan told the Guardian:
“When we started this project in March of 2017, there had been a lot of good reporting on Trump-Russia stuff. But we felt nobody was really getting it because the story goes so far back that you needed context,” says the 33-year-old Bryan, whose credits include two low-budget indie features, The Living and Struck. “If you think this operation started in 2015, it all seems very strange. But when you realize these were several ongoing operations, some of which have been going on for decades and were then turned toward the 2016 election, it all makes more sense.”