Less than a decade ago, Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was credited as the world's richest man under the age of 40. As head of the massive Siberian oil company Yukos, the billionaire was arrested in 2003 for tax evasion and sentenced to eight years in a Siberian prison. In 2010, Khodorkovsky was tried again for money laundering and oil theft, after which he was sentenced to another six years in a labor camp. Popular opinion paints his imprisonment as politically motivated, since Khodorkovsky's ideals stood in contrast to then-president (and current Prime Minister) Vladmir Putin. German director Cyril Tuschi's Khodorkovsky (2011) attempts to dissect the case by interviewing friends, family members, associates and, in one instance, Khodorkovsky himself in a glass cage. Stark black-and-white animated scenes also illustrate a number of background events, including the billionaire's 2003 arrest aboard his private jet.
To the film's credit, the information it presents is organized and easy to follow, whether you're familiar with any of the key players or not. But Khodorkovsky isn't exactly a hard-hitting production loaded with evidence, which makes it feel like more of an impassioned human interest story than a clear-cut case for justice. The tone of the documentary obviously leans toward Khodorkovsky's innocence, as evidenced by the subjects being interviewed and...well, the subjects that aren't. But without an objective, detailed examination of Khodorkovsky's past to back it up, this occasionally feels more like a one-sided puff piece than anything else. Director/writer Cyril Tuschi does an admirable job with the limited material, though, and it provides a decent working introduction to a story that undoubtedly has deeper, darker roots.
Unfortunately, this is also why Khodorkovsky won't be a documentary you'll return to on a regular basis. The film's entry-level approach will initially entertain those with little or no working knowledge of the man, his "crimes" and the resulting punishment. I'm certainly among that group, but I can't imagine those with a deeper understanding of the case will get much out of Khodorkovsky....and once you know the basics, you'll seek more information elsewhere instead of coming back. It's a common predicament for this type of documentary, so Kino Lorber's DVD is more of a rental candidate than a recommended purchase.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this 16x9 transfer of Khodorkovsky is an impressive effort. The interview footage looks about as good as expected, while the sporadic animated clips are especially clean and crisp. The film's natural color palette is represented well, black levels are solid and on-screen graphics look fine. Digital problems are kept to a minimum, though I did spot a few interlacing issues and brief amounts of edge enhancement. Overall, Khodorkovsky looks quite good and fans will be pleased.
NOTE: These images were taken directly from the DVD, but they've been resized and compressed in JPG format (2% loss).
The audio presentation is also right on par, as this Dolby Digital 5.1 pairs crisp vocals with sporadic music cues that frequently venture into the rear channels. Khodorkovsky isn't a bombastic production by any means, but by documentary standards it's a bit more ambitious than most. Dialogue is spoken in a mixture of English, Russian and German; removable English subtitles are also included for translation purposes.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the stylish animated menus replicate several animated segments seen during Khodorkovsky
. Navigation is relatively smooth and simple, with less than a dozen chapter stops and individual setup menus for audio, bonus features, etc. This one-disc release is housed in a standard black keepcase and includes no slipcover or inserts of any kind. If you're fond of black, white and red, you'll be pleased.
Not much, just a short Trailer
and a Still Gallery
of photos. An audio commentary or interview with the director would've been helpful, or perhaps a few educational resources for use in a classroom setting.
Khodorkovsky is entertaining enough upon its first viewing...but this documentary doesn't dig especially deep, so it's not one you'll return to very often. Educators will probably get the most use out of it, as Khodorkovsky represents an interesting case that's relatively easy to digest, understand and eventually debate. Kino Lorber's DVD presentation is a mixed bag, however: the technical presentation pulls its own weight, but a lack of extras lessens the film's impact a bit. Documentary junkies may opt for a purchase, though I'd imagine that a weekend spin of Khodorkovsky will be enough for most viewers. Rent It.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.