Review by Sean Boelman
Like any billionaire, George Soros has his fair share of both proponents and detractors. In his documentary Soros, filmmaker Jesse Dylan hopes to humanize his subject and disprove some of the myths that surround his persona, but that leaves the audience to wonder why there needs to be a movie made in defense of a billionaire in the first place.
In the film, Dylan takes a look at Soros’s life and career, exploring both the ways in which he became so financially successful and what he has since done with his money that has led him to becoming so controversial. And although Soros has lived an undeniably interesting life, Dylan seems less interested in creating a biography and more fascinated with the ethical implications of his story.
There are many points at which it seems like Dylan is going to examine some of the grey areas in Soros’s life, but he then shies away from them. At times, it even feels like this movie is little more than a promotional video made in an attempt to repair Soros’s image, but the arguments made are so one-sided that it won’t be particularly convincing.
Dylan focuses on the positive things that Soros has done in his philanthropy, and the benefits of those are obvious. A lot of the political movements that Soros has supported are really amazing causes, and he should be admired for that. But the film fails to ask an important question about some of his activism, and that is whether or not he is out of his place interfering in some of these things.
The movie does a good job of ridiculing and disproving some of the ridiculous conspiracy theories that have shaped the public opinion of Soros. A montage early in the film features clips of conspiracy theorists talking about how Soros is a puppet master controlling world governments, and then Dylan shows how these people took a bit of truth and wove it into a lie.
That said, the movie’s biggest shortcoming is that it doesn’t really explore the morality of wealth. There is one interview with Soros in which he says that he doesn’t engage in his philanthropy because he has to, but rather, because he can, but apart from that, the film comes up short in this department. To a certain extent, Soros profited off of other people’s struggle, and the movie doesn’t really acknowledge that.
Another thing about the film that is frustrating is how straightforward Dylan’s storytelling approach is. The simple set-up often feels like an eighty-five minute testimonial, which doesn’t help with the lack of authenticity. It’s a dull approach to a story that is anything but, causing the movie to lose a lot of interest.
George Soros is undoubtedly an important person, for better or worse, so a biographical documentary about him should be equally important to watch. Unfortunately, Jesse Dylan’s Soros takes the wrong approach, and as a result, won’t have much of an effect.
Soros streams in virtual cinemas beginning November 20. A list of participating locations can be found here.