Who Am I - No System Is Safe


Reviewed by: Luke Shaw

Who Am I - No System Is Safe
"Who Am I succeeds because it grounds its braggadocio in action that never feels beyond the realms of possibility."

Hacking is the modern day Hollywood bogeyman. If it isn’t the vague other of a terrorist cell threatening our liberty, it’s a shady group of anonymous hackers using unconvincing graphics of hacking programs to egregiously shut down the internet with a keystroke, take control of military hardware, or other such ridiculous conceits. Whilst these representations might wash with the general populace, whose knowledge of computers often begins and ends with logging on to Facebook, they're hard to take seriously alongside growing fear around the activity of genuine hacking cells, and real security concerns.

The bitter pill would be a lengthy, serious documentation of the real life of a hacker. The more appealing, sugar coated solution is WHOAMI, a whip-smart, stylish film with a plot that manages to ground its action in some tech information that pays more than just lip service to the reality of cyber crime.

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Tom Schilling is introverted loner Benjamin, a shut-in who dreams of being a superhero, qualifying his fantasy due to his parent’s absence and his ability to remain invisible to his peers. His other, more useful talent is a preternatural ability to hack and crack programs and security protocols. The film is framed by his confession to Hague Cyber Crime operative Hanne Lindberg (Trine Dyrholme), and Benjamin delivers the story via some admittedly overwrought narration.

Stalling socially in a dead-end pizza delivery job, he finds his tech skills eventually land him in the company of a group of small-time hackers led by the charismatic Max (Elyas M’Barek). The typical trials and tribulations of a roguish band of thieves follow. Instead of physical theft, cyber-crime lends itself to pranks and sticking a middle finger up at the authorities, so beyond the morally dubious nature of their activities, they mainly focus on trying to make news hits and YouTube views in order to court the attention of more prestigious hackers.

Consolidating their friendship, they do their best to break down Benjamin’s insular nature and help him connect with his high school sweetheart Marie, with Max leading with a mantra of ‘Be audacious, and aim for the impossible’. Before long, everything comes crashing down around them as their cyberspace activities lead to dire consequences in meatspace as Benjamin makes a mistake which leads to a fellow hacker being murdered. This is where the story loops back to the confessional scene, as Benjamin barters the identity of various hackers for a chance at Witness Protection.

This alone would make for a compelling, tense and shrewd cyber-heist film, a light but easy to recommend thriller. Not satisfied with this, Jante Friese and Baran bo Odar stay true to the words of Max, and pull of an audacious final act which manages to provide a conclusion that’s equal parts Prestige, Fight Club and Usual Suspects: absurd in its complexity, but confidently presented through a Gordian knot of narrative kinks, where even the exceptional likeness of Schilling to Edward Norton is surely not a happy coincidence, nor a cheap trick.

Whilst the convoluted ending may not be to everyone’s taste, Who Am I succeeds because it grounds its braggadocio in action that never feels beyond the realms of possibility. Hacking is achieved through a mix of software, hardware, and on-site activity. There are very few absurd technological leaps, and although it wears its know-how on its sleeve, it never comes across as too arcane. If anything, it embarrasses Holywood’s recent tech-thrillers, and manages to do so whilst striking out as its own unique vehicle. with a satisfying and wry ending.

Reviewed on: 16 Jun 2015
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A young hacker joins a subversive group intent on "hacking the world".

Director: Baran bo Odar

Writer: Jantje Friese, Baran bo Odar

Starring: Tom Schilling, Elyas M'Barek, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Antoine Monot Jr., Hannah Herzsprung, Stephan Kampwirth, Trine Dyrholm, Leopold Hornung, Katharina Matz, Leonard Carow, Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey, Matthias Neukirch, Nils Borghardt, Alexander Hauff, Antonia Putiloff

Year: 2014

Runtime: 107 minutes

Country: Germany


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