Benjamin (Tom Schilling) is an average nobody who is invisible to the whole world. He however possesses a very unique ability. He can read machine language as if it was his mother tongue. While trying to help out a girl he has had a crush on for a very long time by hacking the college servers to download questions papers of the exams, he gets caught and lands up in community service. This is where he meets Max (Elyas M’Barek), a suave and confident individual who is exactly the opposite of Benjamin. He introduces Benjamin to a secret group of hackers who are just coming into their own. The addition of Benjamin adds that final ingredients to the recipe that would finally make the group great.
The fellows start by pulling off certain pranks which brings them to the notice of the public and the media. However the illusive hacker, known only as Mr. X, who is like a Bradman of the world of hacking, mocks the group by providing them a document from the BND which lists them as not being dangerous. This move makes the group restless to prove themselves and sets them on the path to hacking into the BND itself. Once in, Benjamin makes way with some serious and sensitive information which he then hands over to Mr. X just to prove his capability. What follows next is a deadly game of cat and mouse which would pit the group against international criminals and the BND. The friction between the group members also doesn’t make life easier for them.
The film is a fast paced breezy thriller which though is about the elusive and sometimes difficult to understand, computer programs, still explains itself in a way that everyone willing to watch and listen with some amount of attention is bound to get a grasp off. The technical jargons are kept to a bare minimum and the film concentrates more on the exploits of the hackers than the way they achieve it. By that I don’t mean that the “how” is kept totally ambiguous. The film shows just about enough tech work never letting it become an overdose or flat out boring.
The film works wonderfully as a thriller primarily because of the wonderful performances. The ensemble cast creates a sort of a crazy claustrophobic atmosphere which is not only conveyed through the cramped rooms and galleys that they do their work in but also the situation that they land themselves in wherein they have the law on one side and the international criminals vying for their blood on the other. The team members are also in constant disagreement with each other which keeps creating some chaotic circumstances which goes a long way into making the film an exasperating experience. There are a few interesting twists and turns towards the end which is bound to leave you guessing. The final stroke of surprise is well guised and comes at the right time and speed.
German movies are not often comparable to the international standard, but in the last 2 years the trend has gone bottoms up primarily because of films like this. The movie gains us an insight into the life of young hackers and their ambitions. I was particularly impressed by the manner in which the online meeting of the hackers is shown visually. The surreal atmosphere and the manner in which they interact in gingy trains and subways is reminiscent of the dark world that they are a part of. The music is kept pitch perfect with the mood and setting of the film and at many junctures works wonder.
Tom Schilling metamorphs through the film from a shy and neglected individual to a super hacker who is not only self dependent but also has the ability to hatch plans of his own and have his team members help him execute them. Elyas M’Barek is the next most noticeable and works well in tandem with Schilling. Trine Dyrholm as the BND officer after the group of hackers does well with her character. She also serves as the eyes through which we look at the hackers and judge them.
Overall, Who Am I is a superb thriller which will be loved by anyone who is willing to watch it with an open mind and is willing to pay attention to what is unfolding. I simply loved its pace and editing which really helps keep up the tempo. The story and the characters hold your attention and the thrills are for real. What more could you ask for from a thriller?