Who is the real villain here? This seems to be Russell’s main question. He also seems to have taken a side, especially given the tone and comparisons made by the film’s coda, in which we learn about the fate of the actual characters in this story. By the end of this movie, however, one will probably be wondering: why do we have to choose?
Ulbricht is played by Nick Robinson, and his character first appears in an unnecessary flash-forward until the very end of this story, surrounded by federal agents during a needle-stick operation at a San Francisco public library. . In voiceover, Ross offers a bit of his philosophy of freedom and liberty, and of course, the next time we meet him, several years earlier, he’ll be chatting with a friend at an Austin bar about his opinion according to which the Affordable Care Act is an act of government overtaking.
His suave rants on the free market and the like even put him in bed with Julia (Alexandra Shipp), who is shocked in the morning to learn that she has slept with a libertarian. It’s not a breakup for her, apparently, and she’s there when Ross comes up with a guaranteed – and highly illegal – way to quickly create cryptocurrency. Namely, it is a site on the dark web that will allow people to buy almost anything they want, especially drugs, and have the items shipped to their doorstep – or, ideally, the door. from a friend, a neighbor’s house or a PO Box.
Meanwhile in Baltimore, DEA agent Rick Bowden (Jason Clarke) has just been released from a mental institution due to his addiction to drugs and alcohol. Due to an incident during an undercover operation in Puerto Rico (when he blew up an investigation by insulting a drug cartel boss), Rick is given a desk job in the cybercrime division , so that he can reduce the time until his retirement without having more problems.
Even though real time is split roughly evenly between Ross and Rick, the weight of this story (based on a magazine article by David Kushner) lies with the Federal Agent, whose motives are of dubious honor and whose actions are seldom within the limits of his job. At first he’s petty to be left out of the loop and ill-equipped for a job that relies on computers (he watches videos online on how to use one and calls his young boss for tech support. ). Later, when his young daughter is denied a scholarship to a school that will address her unspecified learning disability, Rick realizes he needs a lot of money – and fast.