REVIEW: NAVALNY (2022 – Documentary)

Alexei Navalny in NAVALNY — PHOTO: HBO / CNN Films / Warner Bros. Pictures.

Directed by Daniel Roher.

A shoo-in for the documentary category at the upcoming Academy Awards and one of the best things I’ve seen this year, Daniel Roher’s NAVALNY, in case the title didn’t give it away or if you don’t know his story, is a documentary about imprisoned Russian opposition leader and anti-government protester, Alexei Navalny. The documentary has access to the titular politician and freedom fighter, and he answers all of Roher’s questions in a way that makes him come across as being surprisingly on top of things. Roher’s documentary also features illuminating footage of Navalny during protests, campaigning, essentially doing an edge-of-your-seat gripping investigation, and, of course, some footage of the time he was poisoned (allegedly on the order of the most powerful man in Russia who supposedly sought to silence him).

I haven’t stopped thinking about this film since I first saw it back in June of this year (partly because of how informative it is, but mostly because of the tone it strikes and how timely and important it feels immediately). This is an astoundingly great documentary that honestly plays a little bit like a thriller, which Alexei Navalny, in the documentary, also states was his hope as he didn’t want an in-case-of-his-death memorial documentary. It succeeds in crafting a suspenseful true narrative, in large part due to the kinds of revealing footage we have of him and his family as they try to fight back against an authoritarian regime that eventually allegedly plotted to kill him.

It can absolutely act as a strong primer for who he is (as most people watching probably don’t know a lot about him), as we meet him, his team, and his family, and see what kinds of questions he is usually asked, what he does on social media, and what his favorite pastime activities are. However, it should be said that it’s obviously mostly about how he was supposedly poisoned due to him being an opposition leader in Russia who tells it exactly like it is.

Most people who know about him probably know that, but I’m not sure most people know what happened next, including his incredibly brave return to Russia and his absolutely incredible investigative prank phone call that somehow got him the information he needed about the assassination attempt on his life. This is a part of the documentary that you simply have to see to believe, and I can assure you that it is going to be one of the most memorable scenes of any film (documentary or otherwise) released this year.

Though I absolutely would recommend this Daniel Roher documentary to just about anyone right now, if you are the type of person who likes to watch documentaries, then I think this is a scream-it-from-the-rooftops suspenseful must-watch film. Especially so because of how relevant it is right now with the ongoing war in Ukraine, but also because it is a great documentary that showcases an individual risking his life for the good of the world knowing that his outcome is up in the air.

8.7 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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