More a mega-thread than a movie, Jack Bryan's tying-it-all-together Donald Trump/Russia doc connects its dots for 110 delirious minutes. Active Measures links Vladimir Putin's rise to New York real estate to oligarchs buying Trump-branded condos to the poisoning of Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko to the sale of 19 percent of the Russian oil company Rosneft to 77,000 more Pennsylvanians, Wisconsinites and Michiganders pulling the lever for Trump than they did for Hillary Clinton. Few shots last longer than a second or two, always cutting from news photos to cable clips to footage of Putin smirking like he's a little stinker to yet another screaming news headline, often with the words Trump and Russia helpfully highlighted.
Active Measures is an assault on the eyes, the ears, the mind. By coming on so strong, so fevered, Bryan achieves the dubious feat of making his host of documented facts, reasonable inferences and alarming subjects for further research all seem less persuasive than if they had been presented more soberly. Yes, Trump is likely, in some way, in thrall to or under the thumb of Putin, but Bryan's case is less journalistic than propagandistic, just a series of dark assertions made and moved on from. With such conspiracies afoot, who has time to nail a fact down? What's especially frustrating is that Bryan has put together a team of experts who could walk us through specifics, building a powerful case. Thirty seconds in, Clinton herself gamely summarizes events of Putin's childhood, and soon we're hearing from John McCain, John Podesta, former U.S. ambassador Michael McFaul, former CIA head James Woolsey, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and more, all of whom rarely get a half sentence out before Bryan cuts away.