The oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was for a while the richest
man in the world under 40, having made his billions in the
freemarket Russia of the 1990s.
Then he seemed to undergo a political conversion, and paid for it with jail. This documentary profile, shot in a deceptively shambling way by Cyril Tuschi, sets Khodorkovsky's career against the backdrop of a country that seems to have swapped communism for gangsterism, though the two never seemed that far apart in the first place. Using archive footage and nifty animated reconstructions, Tuschi explains how this modern Croesus became an unlikely champion of the people. Indeed, there is a clip of Khodorkovsky's fateful moment when, having assured the Kremlin of his support, he publicly challenged Vladimir Putin over corruption in politics. It proved his undoing. In 2003 he was arrested and sentenced to eight years in a Siberian prison. Putin claims the charge to be one of tax evasion, but the tenor of the film's investigation suggests that Khodorkovsky's real offence was to stand up to a dictator. The plight of a one-time oil billionaire is probably not an instant cause for sympathy, but Tuschi has made a persuasive case for his subject as a shady businessman turned political prisoner.
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