21st Century History Lesson – A Review of ‘The New Radical’

A 3D-printed gun with the electronic file needed to produce it available to everyone in the world is more terrifying than the atomic bomb as the materials are so much more easily obtained. The very concept some would argue the internet was made for, others can just as easily argue for restrictions. It’s scary because it’s not just a concept. It’s science fiction made real, and I can’t shake the memory of a certain bleak and unsettling moment from Terminator 2. When Cody Wilson invented this 3D-printed gun, the world changed. The discussion of gun control as it has existed is no longer relevant. But it isn’t just a Second Amendment issue. Wilson’s First Amendment rights are also at stake. Should he be allowed to share the file with the world? Is the government violating his First Amendment rights by trying to stop him?

The New Radical by Adam Bhala Lough follows Wilson and his fight to do what he believes is in his right and ultimately a necessary act. There’s no moral ambivalence to it for Wilson; he believes the world should be allowed to have the 3D-printed gun. His story soon intersects with Amir Taaki, a programmer heavily invested in the Bitcoin movement. Together, the pair develop Dark Wallet, a bitcoin app that will allow entirely private transfers and exchanges of Bitcoin currency. It’s the perfect app for criminals and terrorists, but the pair assert it, too, is an essential and necessary tool for the 21st century world. They wish to be free from governments and banks, and Dark Wallet will facilitate that.

The documentary moves at an incredible pace, layering the narrative with everything a person needs to know about the world in which Wilson and Taaki in habit (and we never knew we did as well). Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Silk Road, the Sandy Hook massacre, Syria, and even the 2016 election are all part of this exciting and troubling web. It’s a history of the 21st century told entirely through the perspectives of Wilson and Taaki. With their perspectives comes much anxiety and discomfort. No matter where you are on the political spectrum (or off it, as they claim to be), they aren’t painting a bright and shiny future. We are witnessing the decline of civilization by following the path of a bullet shot from a 3D-printed gun. The film is eye-opening in its thoroughness, presenting clearly how connected the internet has made the world, and how this system is expediting the downfall of all the systems that came before it.

Standing at the forefront of documentary filmmaking for new generation, Adam Bhala Lough has crafted a film more potent and essential in this post-election reality than perhaps it ever intended. It is a document of a terrifying time and seethes with existential dread of what’s to come next.

The New Radical opens in New York and Los Angeles today, December 1st 2017. It debuts on VOD platforms on December 5th, 2017.