Review: The File (2017)


The File (2017)

Directed by: Thomas Korthals Altes | 84 minutes | thriller | Actors: Stefanie van Leersum, Nasrdin Dchar, Thomas Höppener, Roos Ouwehand, Alex Hendrickx, Jonathan Huisman, Tom van Kalmthout, Bert Hana, Alyt Damstra, Karsten de Vreugd, Ruud Drupsteen, Shahine el Hamus, Geert Lageveen, John Meerzorg, Joël Mellenberg , Jeroen Rienks, Eva Smid, Tom van Kessel, Steven van Watermeulen

In the anonymity of the internet, people can shout and eat anything. They feel unwatched and therefore untouchable. There’s a good chance they’ll get away with things that can’t stand the light of day. Cybersecurity is becoming more important by the day, as our lives increasingly take place online. But how safe and reliable is such a security company? With that twenty-first-century theme in mind, Arnon Grunberg wrote his novella ‘The file’ in 2015. A booklet of less than 180 pages, in which a socially defective ‘hacktivist’ plays the leading role. Judith Goudsmit based her screenplay for the Telefilm ‘The file’ (2017) on that story. The direction is in the hands of Thomas Korthals Altes (‘Lieve Celine’, 2013).

Lillian (Stefanie van Leersum) is an other-worldly young woman with a knack for mathematics and a knowledge of computers. Under the name ‘PrincessSaba’ she is part of a group of hackers, who mainly target multinationals, banks and insurance companies. One of the hacks doesn’t quite go as planned; Lilian is unable to cover all their tracks, because she is distracted by a phone call from her mother (Roos Ouwehand), who informs her that her father has had a heart attack. Her father was a whistleblower, who highlighted abuses within the financial company where he worked. His death strengthens Lilian’s belief that it is her mission to put bastards on their numbers. Something she immediately puts into practice, as she spits in the face of an old colleague of her father (Geert Lageveen) during the farewell reception. After the failed hack, two of her three friends are tracked down by the cybersecurity company BCL. Fearing she’ll be next, Lilian decides to apply for a job at BCL, in order to infiltrate from within and erase any clues that could lead to her. The big boss of BCL, Axel (Nasrdin Dchar), seems immediately charmed by her. Not long after, she is approached by a hacker who calls himself ‘Almond’. She suspects that behind that alias is her colleague Seb (Thomas Höppener). ‘Almond’ has a brilliant plan to hack into the bank where Lilian’s father worked; the ultimate revenge for the way her father was treated. It doesn’t take long for ‘vengeance angel’ Lilian to discover that there are more people who pretend to be different and that her actions are dangerously close to cyberterrorism. Especially when there are deaths…

Cybercrime and hacking has been the subject of films before, and the big problem is always: how do you make actions taking place on the web visually interesting? Thomas Korthals Altes keeps it simple: he does not play tricks or antics and just shows chatting and hacking as it is. With the help of camera angles, music and acting, he manages to build up a certain tension, especially in the crucial scene in which Lilian and ‘Almond’ attack her father’s old employer. The big shortcoming of ‘The file’ is therefore not a lack of tension, but of empathy. Stefanie van Leersum is an actress with potential – it’s not because of her that we don’t want to feel anything for Lilian. The hero of this film is cold, hard and never smiles. She is hardened and embittered by her surroundings, but we remain in the dark about what exactly happened. Her ice-cold relationship with her mother, for example, where does it come from? Lillian’s friends are ghosts of which we hardly know anything. Only Seb manages to win our sympathy a little. It doesn’t help that the digital world of zeros and ones of its own is also distant and cold…

If we had been able to sympathize more with Lilian, who fortunately shows a small glimmer of humanity at the very end, ‘The file’ would have gotten under our skin much more. Then we would have sincerely sympathized with her. Now you only wonder why she makes certain choices, what exactly feeds her fight against injustice and what on earth has her mother done to her for being so mean to her. It’s a shame, because the film is otherwise well put together, the acting is excellent by a fine cast and the film looks well cared for.

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