2017 | DIR. GEORGE RUSSELL | REVIEW BY ALEX MAYNARD
This unevenness is exemplified by how much stronger the film becomes in its second half during the profile of weev. Given how fascinating he is to watch and hear, it’s no surprise that Auernheimer’s story is similarly thought-provoking; in fact, it’s likely that viewers who don’t recognise his name will at least recall some of the events recounted here. For instance, in 2010 weev helped reveal an AT&T security flaw allowing iPad user information to be viewed by any member of the public with enough computer savvy, an incident that received significant media attention. Russell shows impressive restraint throughout, forming a clear stance in support of weev and his fellow hackers without simply condemning AT&T. Rather, as the fallout escalates into criminal charges and jail sentences, TROLL INC. sets its sights on the U.S. government’s fear of the unknown, a gutsy contention that’s admirable for continuing to feature interviews from both points of view. It’s shockingly difficult to reach a definitive consensus on whether weev actually committed a crime during the AT&T incident, but it’s once again to Russell’s credit that the conclusion feels appropriate and triumphant.
However, the broader scope of the film’s early interviews leaves it lacking momentum prior to the focus on weev. I can appreciate that situating trolling in the context of 21st century society may be necessary for viewers who haven’t spent much time online, with the academic Gabriella Coleman proving particularly insightful. Yet these scenes will be a chore for those with background knowledge, feeling like pointless reminders of definitions at best and patronising at worst. Perhaps different audiences will respond more positively to this informative approach (indeed, generational shifts in technology use will likely make this segment helpful for older viewers), but I’m not convinced Russell fully considered who the target demographic was supposed to be. After all, TROLL INC.’s second half is overtly critical of the technologically conservative as mentioned above; I can’t imagine such people even watching this film, let alone having their minds changed by it.
TROLL INC. is at its best when its intriguing subject matter is combined with a compelling argument, both of which weev provides in spades. Regardless of your thoughts on trolling, the importance of these case studies to understanding media and technology convergence make the film feel vital, standing alongside Citizenfour in how well it captures modern society.