[Sundance 2019] The Great Hack Review: A Far Too Long Look at the Hellscape that was Cambridge Analytica

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The Great Hack goes on for way too long, but it's a large information dump about Cambridge Analytica and the world we live in where data is the most valuable resource.

Director: Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim
Summary: Have you ever filled out an online survey? Do you wonder why you receive ads for products that you happened to research the day before? Be afraid. Be very afraid. Data has surpassed oil as the world's most valuable asset, and it is being weaponized to wage cultural and political wars. We're in a battle for control over our most intimate personal details. The Great Hack uncovers the dark world of data exploitation through the compelling personal journeys of players on different sides of the explosive Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data breach that rocked the world.

In some ways, we all knew that our privacy online was utterly compromised. We all knew it but none of us were really thinking about it too much. It was just the way things were sometimes. That all changed when we learned about Cambridge Analytica and the fact that they were harvesting our personal data from not only our Facebook accounts but the accounts of all of our friend's lists. They were using this data to do target advertising that likely impacted the 2016 election. It was shocking and The Great Hack attempts to try to explain how we got here.

[Sundance 2019] The Great Hack Review: A Far Too Long Look at the Hellscape that was Cambridge Analytica
A still from The Great Hack by Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer, an official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The main problem with The Great Hack is that it has decided every part of this story is important–and every part is important–and decided to put it all on screen. This is a documentary that clocks in at two hours and twenty minutes and it still feels incomplete, considering that this story is still ongoing. For a movie playing in a theater, it feels far too long and you find yourself checking your watch after the first hour. However, this is a documentary put forward by Netflix so it's not supposed to screen in the theater. Does the length matter as much when you could pause it at any given time to use the restroom or make something to eat? Perhaps not, but it's hard to tell when you're watching a movie in different conditions from everyone else.

The Great Hack takes the time to go over the various players in this tale including initial whistleblower Chris Wylie, former Cambridge Analytica employee Brittany Kaiser, professor David Carroll who helped kick this entire thing off, and many other players. Out of the many people that this doc follows it's Kaiser who is the most interesting. A good portion of the documentary seems to be asking the question as to whether or not she is sincere in trying to fight back against this or if she is trying to save her own skin. We don't really get an answer one way or another, but Kaiser is an interesting person to see on screen.

The Great Hack is way too long, but considering that it is a documentary meant for streaming and not for theater-going, maybe that doesn't matter. While the story is far from over, it's interesting to get a detailed explanation of how we got here. There is also a lingering sense of hope that while the internet might be a hellscape now, maybe there is time in the future to fix it. Maybe, but it's going to take a lot of work and now we have to sit back and think about whether or not it's worth it.

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About Kaitlyn Booth

Kaitlyn is the Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. She loves movies, television, and comics. She's a member of the UFCA and the GALECA. Feminist. Writer. Nerd. Follow her on twitter @katiesmovies and @safaiagem on instagram. She's also a co-host at The Nerd Dome Podcast. Listen to it at http://www.nerddomepodcast.com
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