Cypher (2022)

Cypher (2022)

A peculiar mockumentary that doesn't commit to more interesting fictional touches

5.0

Movie

United States of America
English
Documentary, Drama, Music, Mystery
2022
CHRIS MOUKARBEL
Jamila Curry, Johnny Montina, Kenete Simms
81 min

TLDR

I feel like this happened to a buddy of mine, Paper Boi, over in Atlanta.

What it's about

Grammy-nominated Philadelphia-born rapper Tierra Whack starts being followed by a secret group of conspiracy theorists.

The take

If nothing else, Chris Moukarbel's Tribeca Film Festival-winning narrative feature really forces us to think about the form of the documentary and the layers of interpretation through which we're shown an ostensibly factual account. Cypher begins as a music doc, before taking on true-crime qualities, then turning into a full-blown found footage thriller—the movie itself practically being brainwashed into its own conspiracy. Unfortunately, this is all much less interesting in execution, as the film goes long stretches without keeping up the momentum of its eerier moments. Its eventual twists are particularly uninspired, coming up with a vision of the music industry that doesn't say anything all that meaningful.

What stands out

It's almost a shame that Cypher has to be this reality-bending experiment, because Tierra Whack as an artist is already plenty fascinating on her own. As much as the film tries to build a sense of growing paranoia while it follows her around, the best moments here are actually the totally straightforward scenes of Tierra recording music or performing on stage. Her natural rapping ability is incredibly satisfying to hear, and she already seems like the kind of artist (despite her relatively young career) who has a distinct lyrical voice and visual identity. Sometimes ordinary music docs aren't a bad thing to aspire being.

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