Valuable as a for-the-record account of the overthrow of Russian capitalist oligarchs by the KGB-dominated interests of the autocratic-minded Vladimir Putin, “Power” is far less effective as cinema. Pic is filled to bursting with an endless parade of talking heads, verbal testimony and analysis that lends itself more to the tube than to the bigscreen. Scribe-director Cathryn Collins and co-writer Shannon Kennedy focus on the rise and fall of Yukos oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky to illustrate how totally political force has shifted in Russia’s past decade. Cablers should come calling.
Collins deploys recent Financial Times Moscow correspondents Catherine Belton, Chrystia Freeland and Neil Buckley to provide the broad strokes of how Khodorkovsky and his generation of businessmen took advantage of post-Soviet disarray to consolidate and privatize public industries for immense personal profit. Putin and his fellow KGB vets are viewed here as wily reactors to the oligarch’s moves, while Khodorkovsky’s friends and colleagues provide behind-the-scenes details of his growing resistance to Putin’s heavy-handed attempts to chop away at their holdings, climaxing in trumped-up charges of fraud and embezzlement that led to the tycoon’s 2003 arrest.