Philosophical twenty-something Ross Ulbricht creates Silk Road, a dark net website that sells narcotics, while DEA agent Rick Bowden goes undercover to bring him down.
Based on David Kushner’s 2014 Rolling Stone article “Dead End on Silk Road: Internet Crime Kingpin Ross Ulbricht’s Big Fall,” “Silk Road” retells the sordid tale of drugs, the underground internet, and the mastermind who created it.
Starring Nick Robinson as Ulbricht, the bright young man with the world in front of him, the Amazon for illegal drugs is created. We can almost see how quickly the gears are spinning in his head as he shares his seemingly far-fetched idea to his new girlfriend and roommate. Ulbricht becomes the happy recipient of the results of supply and demand as his new company, Silk Road, skyrockets using Bitcoin’s anonymity. Meanwhile, an over-the-hill demoted DEA agent, Rick Bowden (Jason Clarke) stumbles upon Silk Road and using old-fashioned skills attempts to bring him down.
The story is two-pronged, seen from both Ulbricht’s and Bowden’s perspective. The two couldn’t be any more different as Ulbricht’s computer-like mind intuitively stays one to two steps ahead of the game while Bowden’s knowledge of the internet is in its infancy. But where there’s a will there’s a way and while Bowden, old enough to be a father to those in charge and a part of the department, is the brunt of everyone’s jokes, his determination drives him forward. Ulbricht soon finds he’s in over his head with a main supplier, Curtis Clark Green (Paul Walter Hauser) helping to pull him down inadvertently. While the story seemingly takes a detour to delve into Bowden’s home life, the ending supports this slightly jarring side road.
This is an incredibly complicated story told masterfully by Tiller Russell who wrote the screenplay and directed the film. The simultaneous stories unfold to converge into one with gritty eloquence. Robinson’s credible performance with Russell’s script and intense pace peels away the layers so that we easily comprehend the minefield before us. Clarke’s novel approach to his character portrayal readily balances the film providing a bit of levity and connection to this fish out of water.
“Silk Road” is a captivatingly complex story ripped from the headlines that many of us missed. The film is one not to miss!
See this on all major digital platforms including Apple TV and Amazon and in theaters.
3 1/2 Stars