Hot Docs review: Active Measures

ACTIVE MEASURES (Jack Bryan, U.S.). 112 minutes. Rating: NNNN

Assembling a wealth of information and presenting it with relentless, almost shark-like momentum, Active Measures sets out to prove two very simple points beyond any reasonable doubt: first, that Donald Trump’s ascendance to the presidency was the result of deliberate Russian interference in the American electoral process – tactics Vladimir Putin had previously deployed in Ukraine, Georgia and Estonia – and second, that Trump is neck-deep in questionable financial relationships with the Russian oligarchy and has been for decades.

Jack Bryan builds his case with archival footage and present-day interviews with journalists, intelligence officials, diplomats and politicians like Hillary Clinton and John McCain, both of whom weathered smears and worse from Trump and his enablers during the 2016 campaign.

Paralleling the early accusations of Trump allowing Russian gangsters to launder money through Manhattan’s Trump Tower and the Taj Mahal casino with the unsavory alliances that enabled Putin’s rise to power in the 90s, Active Measures tracks the two men all the way to their current status as puppet and puppet master.

I had worried that the speed of breaking news would make this film stale-dated before it even premieres, but Bryan’s coverage is current enough to include a look at Cambridge Analytica’s data-mining operations, and glimpses of Trump’s hapless counsel Michael Cohen. The only question Active Measures doesn’t answer definitively is whether Trump is actually aware of Putin pulling his strings, or if he’s just another useful idiot. Either way, we’re all screwed.

April 30, 9 pm, Isabel Bader May 2, 3:45 pm, TIFF 1 May 4, 6:15 pm, TIFF 1

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