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Film Review: The Great Hack (2019)

The Great Hack (2019) is a Netflix documentary that highlights the issue surrounding privacy and security on social media. The film is directed by Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer, and the documentary focuses on a journey taken by Professor David Carroll as he goes after a company, Cambridge Analytica, to get the profile that they made on him. We follow the journey with him and former Director of Business Development for CA, Brittany Kaiser, to get answers on how CA managed to profile millions of people on Facebook in order to win both the Trump election and Brexit.

What I love about Netflix documentaries is that they cover very different topics, whether that is serial killers, a music festival gone wrong or, in this case, a crackdown on privacy on social media. They are also obscure events that affect us to this day, as most people I know had no idea what Cambridge Analytica. I only knew about the company thanks to a two-minute segment in one lecture of my University course last year, and that only scratched the surface on the Brexit situation.

This means that a topic like this is going to be so informative to many people, who have no idea of the topic but will be able to relate certain influential things that have happened recently to it. Everyone knows about that infamous Mark Zuckerberg court cast, but how many people put that down to Cambridge Analytica? How many people knew that CA was part of the reason why every website that stores information must ask about Cookies? Not many, but they are major in our day and age, and this documentary covers all of that and so much more.

There is so much information packed into this single film. There is one clear message and target for the film, that Cambridge Analytica went too far and took people’s information unfairly and secretly and would not take responsibility for it. However, in that one topic alone, they covered several major political debates (mainly Trump and Brexit’s victory), numerous people and how they felt in the company, and the rise and fall of Cambridge Analytica. Like a solid documentary, it had a mission, a development to the story and then a solid conclusion to the ending, even if the real world is still facing repercussions to this day from the events that unfolded.

What helps this documentary is that they have an engaging lead for the film in Professor David Carroll. Like a Professor, he sets out the plan for the film and goes to find evidence and persuade us as an audience to be on his side, and he is convincing in this. He is engaging, makes some great points and leads us on a journey that continues to shock us. I also love the typical presentation that Netflix has for their documentaries that are stylised and cleanly edited, and the fun references to social media that pops up on the screen makes it feel relevant and is pleasing to the eye.
The main problem with this documentary, as you can expect from one that talks about the influence on social media to help Trump and Brexit win their debate, is that this film does feel quite biased. This film very much makes an argument that it is thanks to Cambridge Analytica was the reason that both campaigns won against their opponent, but never truly proves that they would have won regardless. At the end of the day, social media is big influence in politics. It is basically impossible to make a documentary on this topic without feeling political, but I could have done with less of that and more on the privacy issue of the situation.
Another issue with the film that I had is Brittany Kaiser and how the film paints her throughout. They seem to have conflicting images for her, as it seems like they want you to like her and forgive her for her part in the company. Yet, it feels hard to sympathise with her and be on her side when near of the start of the film, we see her on a lounger enjoying some drinks and living a luxurious life. She is not the antagonist of the film for sure, but I don’t like that they try to paint her out as a protagonist either.

Overall, this is another solid documentary from Netflix about a huge issue that many people are unfamiliar with. Whilst they may have not presented the full case as well as I wanted them to, it was still crammed full with information and was very well presented. I would definitely check this out, especially if you live your life on social media.


Have you had a chance to check out The Great Hack yet? How much did you know about Cambridge Analytica before this review? Let me know in the comments down below and let’s have a discussion.

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