Silk Road is based on a true story about the dark web shopping site that internationally plagued the DEA and FBI in the early 2010s. Directed by Tiller Russell, who also adapted the screenplay from David Kushner’s magazine article, “Dead End on Silk Road” — the film centers around website creator Ross Ulbricht (Nick Robinson) and the old school DEA agent Rick Bowden (Jason Clarke). This real game of cat and mouse probably went under your nose nearly a decade ago.
Classic Elements: On the surface level of Silk Road, you can find a very “meh” true-story adaptation. Most people can enjoy a true-crime thriller at this most basic level and then be done with it. If that is how true-crime films appeal to you, then there should be no issue with Silk Road. The first act builds with the story of Ross creating the website and parallels it with Agent Bowden’s struggles. The second act explores all the highs and lows that Ross had to face over the years and how Bowden gets a chance to redeem himself. Ultimately, the third act unfolds just as you would expect.
Editing Mess: Silk Road is one of the most poorly edited films of this decade, so far. The audio does not match up. Lazy cuts in between dialogue, or perhaps no cuts at all when needed. There's this odd use of freeze-frame in the film that doesn't work yet keeps getting used. Large portions have been edited out, so there's an inconsistent flow between scenes. The film caps off at under two hours, but it is a chore to get through.
Lacks Direction: The narrative of Silk Road flips too often. It becomes muddled throughout as we bounce between Ross and Rick. Jason Clarke struggles to gain sympathy as the “good guy”, and it's unlikely due to his acting talents. Clarke has been an effective performer throughout his career. A viewer cannot help but think what this film could have been with someone like Fincher behind the camera — combine that with an Aaron Sorkin screenplay, and Silk Road could have been another masterpiece in this genre. The story is there, but the execution falls very short.