As a documentary, Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press is conventional, aiming more to inform and convince its audience of the assault on journalism in the US than to be cinematically innovative. The movie competently builds each chunk of its tale — beginning with Hulk Hogan’s sex tape lawsuit against Gawker Media, which Hogan won in 2016 — with interviews and news footage, as the participants in its events as well as the journalists who wrote about them recount their memories.
But there’s a sort of twist in the middle that casts new light on everything that came before, and that gives Nobody Speak the feel of a thriller — one built on very recent history. It’s unlikely that anyone who watches the film won’t have at least a vague memory of the strange court case that ultimately brought down the bad kid of online journalism, Gawker. But Nobody Speak carefully dissects that story, bringing in former employees (including Gawker founder Nick Denton) and lawyers from the case, so that it makes more sense to those who wouldn’t have grasped its significance at the time.
Nobody Speak covers the Gawker trial in so much detail (and it’s necessary, giving the complexity of the case) that Peter Thiel, the mogul who was revealed to be bankrolling Hogan’s lawsuit, doesn’t even show up until halfway through the film. Thiel’s involvement is no longer the complete and total shocker it was when it was first discovered — anyone who followed the story in real time know it’s coming — but once he arrives, the movie shifts from a bizarre courtroom story to an ominous, and very convincing, demonstration of the threat that big money tied to big egos poses to press freedom in America.
”It’s a subject that should appeal to anyone who doesn’t wield the words “the media” as an insult.” Sean O’Neal, the A.V. Club
Release date: June 23, 2017
Streaming on: Netflix
Metacritic score: 71 out of 100