“Follows the man who survived an assassination attempt by poisoning with a lethal nerve agent in August 2020. During his months-long recovery he makes shocking discoveries about the attempt on his life and decides to return home.”

Director: Daniel Roher
Staring: Alexei Navalny
Release Date: April 11, 2022

Holy shit. What an unbelievable movie. Holy shit, what an unbelievable story. They say in Navalny (2022) that what happened (and still is happening) to Alexei Navalny seems more like a movie than real life. As crazy as that sounds, it is an understatement.

Navalny is CNN produced documentary directed by Daniel Roher and follows Alexei Navalny, and his family, after Russia and Vladimir Putin had a failed assassination attempt on his life. The documentary revisits how it got to the point where Putin felt that murder was the last resort to gag Navalny, and then cranks the political intrigue up to The Manchurian Candidate paranoia levels with Navalny conducting an investigation on how he was meant to die.

Can you imagine conducting your own massive multi-level investigation on how you were meant to be brutally poisoned by a corrupt political leader whose stretch of evil is scary flexible? Can you imagine calling the group of men that planted the poison in your underpants and getting all the dirty details as to how the mission of death of planned? It is nuts!!

The best scene from Navalny is when he and his team are calling all of the members of the assassination team in attempt to gather an undeniable confession. He has a spiderweb of connective shoe string illustrating the connective tissues behind him as he dials all the numbers. At first it is not working out well, but it all turns around when he calls a chemist. He starts splurging everything. He even says that they should be talking on a secured line, but Navalny just keeps egging him on with one of the most convincing prank phone calls you could imagine. It is wild stuff to capture on camera. Wild. Daniel Roher must have been withholding yelps of joy when he began to understand what exactly he was covering. He had to know it’d be the pivot point of the movie.

With the armed confession of a chemical worker that worked explicitly on Navalny’s assassination attempt, the real-life Russian superhero unleashes a media barrage that takes over the Internet and puts the global spotlight on Russia. The most fascinating part of this aspect of the documentary is the real-life Putin press conference where he was asked about the Navalny assassination attempt. This man went on to explain how it was probably self-inflicted for attention or how it was a United States CIA operation to garner sympathy. Oh, and this all spilling out of his mouth WITHOUT actually acknowledging that Navalny was a person. He doesn’t say his name!

One of the overarching themes oozing from Navalny is that Alexei loves Russia and wants to return to his home no matter what. It is on the level of a crowd-spurning martyr. He is going to succeed in his quest to show the world and his followers that Putin and his regime are evil and they will be defeated. Navalny continuously says that he is not scared, even when he is on the flight back to Russia after unveiling his investigation to his murder.

The final 20 minutes of Navalny may make you want to punch a hole in the wall. All of the reporters on his commercial flight pestering Navalny and his family with questions and selfie requests. The plane being blatantly redirected from the Moscow airport as an attempt to quell the crowds that had met to chaperon him home. On the ground, riot police arresting individuals for cheering on Navalny.

When the police take Navalny into custody upon landing, it is still disturbing even though you know exactly what was going to happen. You still need to watch Navalny to see how the entire interaction goes down. The matter-a-factness on both parties is fascinating; both parties know what strings are being pulled and why, but only Alexei is spouting off about it. To quote Taylor Swift, when Alexei asks his arresters why this is happening, “I have never heard silence quite this loud.”

Navalny is the best documentary I have seen since Boys State (2020). The candidness of the documentary subjects is both fascinating and tragic at the same time. In terms of Navalny, you know how his urgency is going to put him in a ton of trouble. In Boys State, you see how youth’s view of politics is also leading them on an inevitable path of partisanship. Politics is a strange beast, and both documentaries shine a depressing light on what the world is like now.

Watch Navalny on HBO Max. It will grip you. It will educate you. It will demand your attention and reaction.

STANKO RATING: A (4.5/5 Stars)

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