Documentaries: Troll Inc. (2018) - Reviewed

There is not a corner of the internet left untouched by trolls. Since the dawn of the web, there have been factions of people pushing limits, taking things a step (or twenty) farther than most decent humans would even consider, causing ruckus and discomfort and just generally setting out to make people mad online. Surprisingly, considering the widespread impact they have on most of our daily lives, George Russell's 2018 documentary, Troll Inc., is the first film to take on trolling. Focusing on the (wrongful) conviction of Weev (nee Andrew Auernheimer) after his "cyber security firm", Goatse Security, broke no laws, but embarrassed the hell out of Apple and AT&T, Russell paints a compelling picture and gives the audience way more to think about than they may have expected.

In a documentary like this, the obvious choice could be to focus on the government agencies tasked with putting a stop to men like Weev, or into the technical minuta of how trolls operate. Russell's success with this film hinges on the fact that he chose another path, exploring the humanity of the trolls themselves, and discovering what motivates them. Weev is a surprisingly charming, charismatic character. He is engaging and, from the first minute, it is clear that he is extremely intelligent. The film is shot and composed in such a way that the audience, most of whom come in staunchly anti-troll (and with good reason), find themselves taken with the subjects, and possibly even liking them.

While story itself is fascinating, the production of the film elevates it in every way. Russell's expert editing cuts news footage in among the interviews; at times inspiring deep belly laughs, at others eye rolling disbelief. The style of the film helps ease the discussion of some of the more difficult, uncomfortable topics that are touched on, keeping a light tone and brisk pace that stops the audience from getting hung up on some of the more controversial, but overall less important, troll behavior. This could be seen as glossing over nastiness, for sure, but it really doesn't feel like Russell is telling the audience to accept and forgive the sins of his subjects, just that those sins aren't the real atrocities to focus on, in terms of the big picture.

Without solid pacing and the right tone, this film would have fallen flat on it's face, but Russell avoids that trap by picking exactly the right interview subjects and injecting tons of humor and laughs into the story. Running at a very brief 80 minutes, he leaves his audience wanting more, and isn't that what filmmaking is all about? With fascinating subjects telling a relevant, engaging story, all put together into a package that flits along raucously, Troll Inc. may just be the documentary you didn't know you've been waiting to see. 

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-Josie Stec