Who Am I - No System Is Safe (2014)

© Sony Pictures Releasing GmbH/ Foto: Jan Rasmus Voss
© Sony Pictures Releasing GmbH/ Foto: Jan Rasmus Voss
Directed by Baran bo Odar

A box-office sensation in Germany and quickly picked up for a big-budget remake by Warner Brothers, Who Am I: No System is Safe is the second film by the Swiss filmmaker Baran bo Obdar. Similar to his 2010 debut, The Silence, it is a thriller that gathers steam as it moves forward and untangles the story, except Who Am I dwells less on the macabre and stays longer under the light. It is about a gifted hacker named Benjamin — played by Tom Schilling, whose presence onscreen brings to mind James McAvoy and a young Edward Norton — who surrenders himself to the authorities and admits his involvement in a large-scale cybercrime offense. His confession provides the narrative, zooming in on the players in the hacking world as they pose threats to national security, and lays out several convoluted plots that create the suspense.

Brimming with unmistakable youth and energy, Who Am I delivers the requirements of its genre not only with thrill and tension, but also with an accessibility that allows the film to be viewed from different angles — a crime story, a critique of present society, a study on power struggle, a failed love story, or a tale of an orphaned outsider tired of being a nobody. It aspires to be many things, but it does not forget above all else the need to be compelling. It is neither too tight nor too loose: the excitement comes from the straightforward telling and the consistency of action, until it gives in and refracts in the last few minutes. Its appeal comes from the timeliness of its subject, especially with the current concerns about security and surveillance, and Obdar is able to maximize that, with a dash of his creative touch. But the larger themes of friendship, betrayal, competition, and belongingness make a more notable impact, not to mention the satisfaction in seeing Benjamin, the underdog, escape from danger and finally get his girl.

by Richard Bolisay