‘Icarus: The Aftermath’ Review: A Tense and Affecting Real-Life Sequel

Bryan Fogel’s work was lower out for him when he selected to direct a follow-up to Icarus, his 2017 deep dive into sports activities doping and the flowery system of dishonest amongst Russian Olympians. That movie closed with a cliff-hanger. Having turned whistleblower mid-film, Grigory Rodchenkov, the architect of the state-sanctioned doping program, fled Russia and was in hiding stateside. To proceed to inform his story, the problem for Fogel lay not simply within the creative shadow forged by his vividly advised Oscar winner. Complicating the making of a sequel was an important constraint: To shield the protection of the documentary’s central determine, Fogel wouldn’t have the ability to work together with him straight.

The resolution was to embed a single cameraperson, producer Jake Swantko, with Rodchenkov and his safety group. Tracking his life on the lam for almost 5 years, Icarus: The Aftermath is each extra intimate and of broader scope than the sooner movie. It’s documentary as spy thriller, a portrait of institutional gaslighting, a authorized nail-biter, an intimate have a look at the price of refuting authoritarian doctrine, and, above all, an affecting character examine.

Icarus: The Aftermath

The Bottom Line

Orwellian chills, poignant twists and turns.

The Aftermath reteams Fogel with Swantko, writer-producer Mark Monroe (who has labored on among the most high-profile nonfiction options in recent times, amongst them The Cove, Hooligan Sparrow and Lucy and Desi) and composer Adam Peters. For those that didn’t see the sooner doc, the dexterous opening-credits recap tells you what it is advisable know, with just a few useful glances again through the movie itself as effectively. With thriller lighting in law-office convention rooms and kinetic camerawork in non permanent houses someplace within the United States, the story unfolds with a fittingly unsettling rhythm (the enhancing is by Wyatt Rogowski and Lauren Brinkman), whereas Peters’ rating shifts between percussive beats and darkish, nerve-jangling chords.

Orwell is, understandably, close to and expensive to Rodchenkov. As the top of Russia’s Anti-Doping Center, his chief function was devising methods for the nation’s Olympians to use performance-enhancing medicine and never get caught — a extra correct identify for the company would have been the Anti-Doping-Evidence Center. Strategies had been science-based and borderline-ludicrous, amongst them a secret laboratory on a luxurious ship, a mandate for athletes to pee of their pants, and a “Duchess cocktail” that used scotch or vodka to masks the prescription drugs.

Rodchenkov is a compelling protagonist with an enormous persona — brainy, gregarious, humorous. His silences could be loaded with foreboding, and his effusiveness is childlike, particularly when he’s expressing his emotions for the people who find themselves working to guard him. These embrace a authorized group, led by Jim Walden, who’ve motive to imagine that there are Russian operatives on the lookout for him within the U.S. (During his years on the run, headlines announce the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, in England, and that of opposition chief Alexei Navalny.)

The affection between Rodchenkov and Fogel is very sturdy, evidenced within the Zoom name that marks their first contact in two and a half years. They handle a few in-person conferences too, the primary of those memorialized with an nearly romantic mini-montage at one of many secret stops on Rodchenkov’s underground travels.

Moving from place to put, usually with little discover, the whistleblower displays the official response again house, dyes his hair (with Swantko’s help) and soothes his nerves with whiskey. Somewhere alongside the way in which, not explored within the movie, he writes a ebook, 2020’s The Rodchenkov Affair: How I Brought Down Russia’s Secret Doping Empire. In cellphone calls together with his spouse, Veronika, who’s nonetheless in Russia, his makes an attempt to place a hopeful spin on their predicament don’t wash. “This is just hell,” she tells him. “Why did you even venture into this hell?”

As to who he’s and the way he received so far, Fogel makes use of brisk animation (by Gary Breslin’s Office of Development & Design) for example Rodchenkov’s days as a younger athlete, when his personal doping started — towards his coach’s coverage, and together with his mom’s assist. Swantko conducts a sit-down interview with him, through which he speaks of a persistent Soviet mentality in post-glasnost Russia. To that time, the doc contains footage of Putin disparaging him as a “nutjob” and calling treason the worst attainable crime. A Russian TV commentator decries Rodchenkov’s “malicious intent toward our athletes.”

It can be a simplistic studying of the movie to say that it’s proof of a singular model of evil on this planet. In Rodchenkov’s astute statement, “Whistleblowers are the most hated from both sides.” (Ask Julian Assange.) With the steering of lawyer Bo Cooper, Rodchenkov seeks asylum, and his case drags on for a number of years; at one level, a commerce for Edward Snowden is taken into account.) Russia doesn’t have a monopoly on nationalist fervor and propaganda, however its explicit model of those, mixed with shockingly old-school spycraft, set it aside. Yuri Ganus, Rodchenkov’s successor on the Anti-Doping Center, is a ray of motive and hope. He’s forthcoming and endorses the significance of whistleblowers in digital interviews with Fogel which can be each heartening and, regarding his security, worrying.

In the grand geopolitical scheme of issues, after all, there are far worse crimes than dishonest on the Olympics. If anybody in 2022 nonetheless views the Games as a pure and holy endeavor and never an enormous enterprise, they could even be shocked to study that there’s playing occurring in Rick’s Café. The Aftermath contains interviews with member of WADA, the Olympics-affiliated World Anti-Doping Agency, all of whom specific quiet disbelief within the backtracking and reversals which have put Russian athletes again in competitors after the 2017 revelations that originally led to Russia being banned.

On the idea of his directing debut, Jewtopia, nobody may have predicted that Fogel would develop into a filmmaker centered on truth-tellers and iconoclasts (between Icarus and his new movie, he made The Dissident, a doc concerning the homicide of journalist Jamal Khashoggi). The Aftermath displays his private dedication and casts a penetrating mild on the bigger forces that form all our lives and, within the case of brave dissenters like Rodchenkov, flip lives inside out, irrevocably.

The focus of Rodchenkov, his authorized group and the filmmakers shifts for some time to the diaries he’s stored since a teen, volumes that doc his work for the Russian authorities. As to how the notebooks make it from Russia to the States, we’ll most likely by no means know. The triumph, after all, is bittersweet; the diaries are most definitely the one issues from Rodchenkov’s life in Russia that he’ll ever see once more. Chronicling a leap into the unknown, Icarus: The Aftermath is a narrative of immense bravery and unspeakable disappointment.

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