On Oct. 2, 2018, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. He was never to seen from again. Days later, it surfaced that Khashoggi had been killed, likely at the behest of the Saudi Arabian government and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A cover-up followed, but cracks began to show. The CIA concluded the Saudi government was behind the murder, but President Donald Trump disputed the findings. The crown prince was too close of an ally to point the finger at. Nevertheless, government agencies in the U.S. and abroad—not to mention the tireless work of reporters—uncovered the truth of Khashoggi’s kidnapping and murder, and now documentarian Bryan Fogel assembles it all into The Dissident—an exhaustive exploration of conviction, corruption, cyberspaces, and a whole lot more— available on Video On Demand.
Although Khashoggi is the main subject of Fogel’s documentary, the title does not refer to Khashoggi alone. Interviewed at length, Omar Abdulaziz also fights the fight Khashoggi shouldered and fears a similar fate. He’s not alone, but he has nowhere near the resources to call it a fair fight. He’s armed simply with the truth, and its nakedness is a double-edged sword.
Ditto for Fogel, who loads The Dissident with information—everything from interviews to a pilot TV talk show with Khashoggi as host. But it’s the audio recordings from the final hours of Khashoggi’s life that act as the documentary’s trump card. Listening to them makes your blood run cold, to say the least. But Fogel puts too much in front of them, playing this third act revelation too close to the vest. It creates an impatience that made me uncomfortably eager for the end.
The Dissident is a multi-headed beast that takes on a lot and offers as much in return. It’s a wealth of material trying to create a well of emotion, but the doc lacks urgency and a tidy construction. There’s a lot at stake here, but after two hours of repetitious information, The Dissident remains inert.
The Dissident (2019)
Directed by Bryan Fogel
Written by Bryan Fogel, Mark Monroe
Produced by Bryan Fogel, Thor Halvorssen, Mark Monroe, Jake Swantko
Briarcliff Entertainment, Rated PG-13, Running time 119 minutes, Available on Amazon and Apple TV.