Review by Cole Groth
Cybersecurity is the biggest issue facing the planet, at least according to director Daniel Gordon. With all of our lives revolving around a digital medium, it’s important to consider how safe the devices we use are. Focusing on the story of a daring cyber heist, Billion Dollar Heist won’t live up to its name, but it will inspire interesting thoughts about how we use technology.
The Bangladeshi Central Bank theft is an excellent choice for a documentary subject. It’s a story full of twists and turns, political and social commentary, as well as teachable lessons. Back in 2016, a group of hackers were successful in a large-scale robbery of the Bangladeshi Bank. They were able to steal tens of millions of dollars, and unlike heists in the past, this one was purely online. The documentary tells this story in a great way. We slowly learn new details as new issues are brought up, making it a riveting, constantly unfolding adventure.
While the heist might be interesting, there’s a big problem here: it wasn’t a billion-dollar heist at all. While the attackers were trying to get an amount around (but not at) a billion, they failed to get even a quarter of that. While it’s still a large sum of money and still an interesting story, there’s something frustrating about almost being lied to by the title. This would've been much better if it chose a title that not only focused on the heist, but the technological developments it discusses as well. There are some fascinating points about how modern hacking affects our world and how cyber-security is important, but the title only points to one of those points.
Technically, this is a very well-made documentary. The editing is nice. The music is interesting. The subjects are well-lit. You’ll have no qualms about the way it’s been produced. That being said, there’s always something keeping this back from being excellent. It doesn’t feel particularly innovative, so this isn’t something that will stand out as particularly worthy of a watch.
Billion Dollar Heist tells a good story and is prescient. As far as documentaries go, this is about as average as you can get. It’ll be something cool to listen to, but has the memorability of an average PBS broadcast. Media now demands to be bigger and better than everything else. While this is a good documentary overall, it simply doesn’t stand out that well. If you’re a technology buff or love documentaries, this is your cup of tea. Otherwise, it’s just fine.
Billion Dollar Heist releases on VOD on August 15.