Saeed Torres is an paid informant for the FBI and we watch as he takes on a new, heck, possibly, his last assignment. It’s definitely not his first walk–in-the-park for the former Black Panther member, but because of a young son he has at home, he knows that he needs to make some money, and fast, too. Saeed, or “Shariff,” as he is known for the sake of the investigation, heads to Pittsburgh for his latest assignment where he’s supposed to keep an eye on and infiltrate a possible terrorist. The supposed “terrorist” is known as “Khalifah”, who was raised a Protestant, went to Temple University (go Owls), and then suddenly became a very serious, very angry anti-American Islam, reading all sorts of material on Islamic virtues, as well as preaching them on his Facebook. Though there’s very limited ways in which Khalifah uses his Islamic-propaganda to be hear and seen for the whole world, the FBI still sees this as enough to incriminate the guy. All that matters is if Saeed can do his job, get it done, and ensure that there’s no issues in between.
Honestly, that’s easier said then done in cases such as this.
What’s perhaps the most interesting feat that directors Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe get away with, isn’t how they were able to get a paid, confidential informant to talk with them about the cases they’ve done and the one he has yet to do, but actually get to watch as he goes through the whole process. And it’s not like we don’t see this Saeed guy for all that he is – every shot of him, for the most part, is well-seen, well-lit, and easy enough to make us see him, without any hidden information at all. This is, yes, definitely dangerous Saeed himself, but risky for the directors to, to where they have to take into consideration whether they have the subject’s best interest at heart? Or, if they just have their own personal gain, where they’re more interested in getting notoriety for their documentary that clearly has a gimmick?
It’s a fine line that Cabral and Sutcliffe tread very, very lightly. However, what makes (T)error feel less like a tribute to those paid informants in today’s day and age, who are cracking down on every possible terrorist suspect imaginable, is that it doesn’t really show the job, or Saeed, in a positive light. Sure, the directors understand that paid informants are the ones who clearly crack down and get the best information one can possibly get to protect the liberty and freedom of our great country, but they also understand that there are certain limitations to it, as well. Rather than just assuming every person with a Quran in hand, or a Burqa on their head, is an absolute, unabashed, and ready-to-strike terrorist, there should also be a certain understanding that most of these people believe what they want to believe, have the right to, and don’t necessarily want to blow up any buildings or kill major amounts of people.
Just like you or I, they have political and religious beliefs. They may differ and be slightly more controversial than others, but their beliefs nonetheless and they should be trusted as such. That’s why (T)error, no matter how hard it dives into Saeed, his life, or his time spent with the FBI, you never get the idea that the movie’s trying to take a side, as much as it’s trying to explain each one, giving us a clearer understanding of the situation and reminding us that sometimes, what we see, isn’t always what actually is.
This is why when (T)error decides to change its focus a bit and show Khalifa’s side of the story, how he sees everything, and make better sense of whether or not he’s a violent terrorist, it’s not just a smart move on keeping the movie interesting, but also powerfully thoughtful and compelling. Because we see Khalifa for a human being, rather than a terrorist who is ready to blow the country up, the movie makes us think of he’s really as bad as the FBI makes him out to be, or if he was just a target day one because of his beliefs, regardless of whether or not he was actually a harmful, or dangerous suspect to begin with? The movie shows that there aren’t any real answers to begin with, mostly due to the fact that the FBI will continue their attack on him, no matter how long, or how many it resources, it takes.
This is probably the scariest reality that (T)error portrays.
Wherein today’s day and age of media, where shows like Homeland (which is referenced here) and Minority Report are around and make us think of whether or not the government truly is controlling and spying on our every move, it’s actually terrifying to see this expectation become something all the more true by watching what transpires here. And while you could definitely make the unethical argument for the directors in how they film both of these person’s sides of the story, without the other actually knowing, it still makes for a great game of cat and mouse, where you don’t know who is going to crack first, or what the other is going to do next. If anything, it allows for (T)error to play out like some of the best thrillers seen. However, the fact that it’s all real and true-to-life, really drives home the fact that we really have no clue what’s going on with our government, until the FBI is knocking on our door one day, accusing us of something we never did and making it seem like we’re public enemy #1.
Now I’m scared to walk outside.
Consensus: (T)error plays both as a thriller, as well as a thought-provoking tale of how the FBI works, why paid informants may, or may not work, and what exactly constitutes as a “threat” to the United States. There’s plenty of questions, however, none are answered, nor should they be.
8.5 / 10