Review: The Conspiracy
Two documentary filmmakers set out to make a movie about a conspiracy theorist. When this supposedly paranoid man suddenly disappears, the filmmakers, Aaron and Jim, try to learn more about his world. Aaron slowly becomes obsessed and starts to believe what he reads, while Jim remains hesitant. Their investigation leads the men to a curious discovery, as they find themselves learning about a secret society that has been existing below their radar.
Canadians Aaron Poole and James Gilbert star in the lead roles, playing themselves. Well, sort of – they are playing versions of themselves in a film that relies on authenticity.
Is this a documentary or is this fiction? A film that blends genres and strives for realism, The Conspiracy, the debut film by director Chris MacBride, is at times a fascinating investigation, and at others a tense thriller.
A seemingly raving lunatic, one who stands on street corners in Toronto shouting dogma and interacts with other conspiracy theorists in a simulated online world, is at the center of a documentary as the film begins – in a documentary style. So there’s one layer.
The portly gentleman, with wide-eyes and wild hair, suddenly disappears, leaving his messy apartment, complete with newspaper clippings on the walls, totally abandoned. Aaron and Jim, who will initially documenting one man, turn the cameras in a way on themselves. Their documentary becomes about conspiracy theories, and they investigate the world their original subject was in. It leads to strange virtual conversation, secretive meetings with informants, and eventually a clandestine trip to a supposed meeting of an underground society, or cult.
The question is, who is filming them? What the audience is watching is a footage collected by someone or something for the purpose of showing their investigation. A smart, layered film that challenges the viewer to in fact challenge what they are watching, The Conspiracy is fascinating if not unnerving and frustrating. The found footage and point-of-view style works better than most of the genre and the taut third act is far less disorienting than it could be.
It does add an element to realism in this film that also uses Internet clips and new stories to enhance the meaning. What’s more, though the film takes a decided turn in the third act, it remains disciplined and focused with a story that could easily spiral out of control. While the ending may be divisive for some viewers, it’s hard not to be curious about the subject matter – you may not want to run down the rabbit hole, but you’ll surely want to peer over the threshold.
Should You See It?
A solid piece of low-budget Canadian filmmaking, The Conspiracy is evocative and fascinating – so yes.