Fresh out of a psychiatric ward, narcotics cop Rick Bowden (as played by Jason Clarke) is out of excuses. Either with his family or his boss, there’s clearly little trust left to call upon as he is busted down to a desk job in cybercrime. Similarly, twenty-something Ross Ulbricht (as played by Nick Robinson) has also exhausted the patience of parents. Forever chasing the big idea that will somehow change the world, Ross finally thinks he has it – an anonymous online superstore for selling illegal drugs. However as his website (the Silk Road) takes off, it also attracts Rick’s interest who hasn’t got much left to lose…
Silk Road is… a solid-enough yarn about the dark web, but it’s nothing so arresting that you could hang a five-star review on.
Based on real events and dramatised where necessary, director Tiller Russell’s reworking of Ross Ulbricht and the story of the Silk Road website is an above-average cyber-thriller. Navigating a world where he’s clearly out of his depth, Jason Clarke‘s Rick astutely rationalises that whilst everyone else is chasing I.P. addresses, he’s much more intersted in whose fingers are touching the keyboard. So, whilst Silk Road‘s script does a decent enough job of showing you how goods are bought with an untraceable currency (aka bitcoin), it really only cashes its dramatic chips halfway through once we leave cyberspace. Whereas David Fincher’s The Social Network wisely focussed on the personality of the players and their need for greed, in particular, Nick Robinson‘s Ross Ulbricht feels somewhat underwritten in this regard.
For whilst actor Nick Robinson brings a solid urgency to Ross, an adolescent who is forever ashamed of being labelled as “a starter but never a finisher”, it’s really Jason Clarke‘s Rick Bowden who drives the main story. Way out of his depth and subordinate to a juvenile boss, it’s his growling narcotics cop that is the real volcano that’s waiting to explode. As a result, he gets the most of the camera’s attention and I can say that Jason Clarke‘s performance deservedly warrants it. Similarly Darrell Britt-Gibson as Rick’s informant Rayford also deserves a special mention.
However, in a dramatised tale where two immovable forces are clearly destined to meet, albeit one with a badge and one with a computer, the best thing that can be said about Silk Road has going for it is the acting. Don’t get me wrong, in trying to visualise the Silk Road, writer/director Tiller Russell has spun a solid-enough yarn about the dark web, but it’s nothing so arresting that you could hang a five-star review on. For that, you would need an Aaron Sorkin script and he’s already conquered cyberspace for David Fincher.