Antidote [Tribeca Festival Review]

I doubt I’ll see a better or more important documentary this year than Antidote. James Jones’s work of cinematic journalism had its world premiere in the Documentary Competition section of 2024’s Tribeca Film Festival. It deserves to be seen far and wide. With Vladimir Putin making bolder, scarier moves in recent years, every reason exists to pay close attention to the movie’s message.

Jones follows three men who have all challenged Putin in some way: an unnamed whistleblower who worked for a program that was developing powerful new poisons; Vladimir Kara-Murza, a political activist who survived two poisoning attempts and was subsequently arrested; and Christo Grozev, a journalist for Bellingcat who specializes in exposing Putin’s darkest, most covert dealings. The lives of all three are in jeopardy, yet they accept their fate because of a shared belief that the way to bring down Russia’s leader is to bring his misdeeds to light. Kara-Murza’s wife Evgenia factors in, too, as she fights for her husband’s release while simultaneously carrying on with his work.

Drama arises from seeing how determined Putin is to get them. The whistleblower, for example, is trying to get out of the country before he can be killed. His appearance is altered through CGI to protect him, a detail that urgently conveys the danger he’s in. Grozev, meanwhile, is forced to go into hiding in New York after learning that there’s a plan to murder him as soon as he sets foot back in Russia. Antidote details the crimes committed by Putin’s regime, not the least of which is the killing of outspoken critic Alexei Navalny. Then, through the journeys of these men, it shows the repercussions for anyone who dares to stand up against those crimes.

The most fascinating figure in the documentary is Grozev, whom Jones follows through a portion of his ordeal. His calm, soft-spoken demeanor belies the unfathomable pressure he’s under. In a harrowing interview, he reveals that he underwent holistic testing. The results revealed that his body’s stress level never lowered, even when asleep. In other words, there is never a point at which he physically relaxes. Having to worry about his family back home is a major factor in that, especially when a disturbing turn of events occurs.

Every single second of Antidote is absolutely riveting. With Putin killing Navalny and attacking Ukraine, the potential exists for the world to change in all kinds of scary ways. This movie is a tribute to the people who possess the courage to stand up against his tyranny, even though it puts a target on their backs. Putin’s drastic actions suggest that he is afraid, so the more people who expose him, the weaker he’ll become.

Antidote


Antidote is unrated, but contains some adult language and disturbing images. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.


© 2024 Mike McGranaghan