Silk Road starts with a disclaimer. “This story is true. Except for what we made up or changed.” In other words, creative and dramatic license was required to turn this cyber crime story into something resembling a crime thriller. We’ve got the suspect’s IP address!! Woo-hoo!
The movie follows the rise and fall of Silk Road, a darknet site that became a multi-million dollar pipeline for illicit drugs from 2011-2013. It was the brainchild of a driven, idealistic young man named Ross Ulbricht (Nick Robinson, Love, Simon) who sought to create the internet’s first unregulated marketplace – the “Amazon of drugs” – complete with product reviews and buyer/seller feedback. All under a cloak of total anonymity, with purchases secured using the cryptocurrency bitcoin. The story is also about the disgraced DEA agent turned cyber-crimes sleuth Rick Bowden (Jason Clarke, Zero Dark Thirty), who was willing to go to dangerous and unpredictable lengths to bust Ulbricht (aka Dread Pirate Roberts) and his operation. According to writer and director Tiller Russell, Bowden’s character is a composite of several crooked cops.
The screenplay is based on the Rolling Stone article, “Dead End on Silk Road: Internet Crime Kingpin Ross Ulbricht’s Big Fall” by David Kushner – in case you’re desperate for something closer to the real story. And, of course, there’s always Wikipedia. Silk Road reveals an interesting story, and I like both Robinson and Clarke, but this crime thriller ultimately is lacking in thrills – even with the made up stuff thrown into the mix. There is, however, a 2015 documentary about the Silk Road cyber-marketplace called Deep Web. That may be more compelling. And it’s narrated by Keanu Reeves!
Silk Road is available in select theaters, Digital, and On Demand Feb. 19.