THE CONSPIRACY – Fantastic Fest Review
How do you react when you walk past a strange man or woman shouting seemingly absurd statements about politics, aliens or the end of the world? Do you stop and listen intently? Do you retaliate with your own brand of biased retorts, or do you simply pass them by, putting every ounce of your being into convincing yourself they do not exist? Now, consider this… what if everything coming out of their loud, obnoxious mouths were true.
Writer and director Christopher MacBride invites the audience to consider this while viewing his film THE CONSPIRACY, which is a faux documentary of sorts, but doesn’t attempt to fool the audience that it’s a real documentary. Intentional or not, there are signs that the film is a fictional production, from the way the documentary filmmakers are presented to the way in which the film is shot and structured. The opening scenes are very much designed to convey the feel of a riveting documentary, but this feeling rapidly tapers off as the story progresses and the heart of the film begins to take form.
THE CONSPIRACY begins with interview segments and on-the-street clips inter-cut with various bits of archival footage as documentary filmmakers Aaron (Aaron Poole) and Jim (James Gilbert) build a profile of an outspoken conspiracy theorist. As their exploration evolves, the man who at first appears mentally unbalanced begins to actually start making sense… and then, he disappears. His apartment ransacked, the filmmakers’ footage is all that remains to prove the man had ever existed.
Left with an unfinished film and a mess of the missing conspiracy theorist’s collected documents, Aaron and Jim choose to explore his theories further in hopes of either finding the man, or what happened to him. This marks the point at which a rift begins to form between Aaron and Jim, but also where the film itself begins to morph into something completely different from what was initially presented to viewers. This is also the point at which it becomes unquestionably apparent that the filmmakers were not out to fool audiences that this is an authentic documentary.
THE CONSPIRACY shifts from feeling like a documentary expose to a film that actually draws the audience in and makes them feel a part of the conspiracy, challenges the viewer to ask themselves about the validity of the “facts” and “theories” they are being exposed to on screen. MacBride clearly took great care in his research and in constructing the this film. MacBride wants us to question the truth as we know it, not to suggest that what we understand is false, but instead encourages us to questions the sources from which we receive our information.
As the stakes in THE CONSPIRACY increase and we inch closer to the truth, the film is already in the process of shifting into thriller mode. While there is a point where the film’s outcome becomes something predictable, it doesn’t draw too much from the experience. There are some logistical arguments to be made regarding the production, such as a flawed attempt to convincingly present a portion of the film as shot by a tiny, hidden tie pin camera. Then again, most viewers probably won’t even bat an eye, but for some viewers this will nag at you after the fact.
THE CONSPIRACY is engaging, entertaining, even a little bit educational. While the ending does get chalked up to being a fairly typical genre conclusion, it’s the journey to reach that outcome, the experience of the film that makes THE CONSPIRACY worth seeing. Allow yourself to be taken for a ride. Follow the filmmakers down the rabbit hole of the conspiracy theories and the mystery inherent to revealing the identity of who is pulling the strings.