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Film / Who Am I (2014)

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Who Am I – No System Is Safe is a 2014 German thriller directed by Baran bo Odar. It is centered on a computer hacker group in Berlin that gears towards global fame.

Not to be confused with the Jackie Chan film of the same name.

This film provides examples of:

  • Absent Father: Ben's father ran away to France when he was born.
  • The Ace: Max.
  • Adolf Hitlarious: On the NBD conference, CLAY manages to hack the presentation laptop and play their animation depicting Adolf Hitler in woman underwear being dry-humped by dogs. The neo-Nazi crowd is outraged.
  • Aside Comment: The last scene has Ben looking at the camera saying "No more magic tricks.". Then he winks and the screen goes black.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Hanne suggests to attack MRX's weakest point, his pride, by ruining his reputation in the Darknet community. It works.
  • Bad Job, Worse Uniform: Ben's embarrassing outfit as a pizza delivery boy.
  • Batman Gambit: Ben's plan to hand himself in, get MRX arrested with Hanne's help and forge a new identity for himself.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Max' favorite Social Engineering technique that gives him exactly what he wants. His tenet: "Man is by nature trusting and averse to conflict". He then goes on to demonstrate the trope by pressing two choco donuts from an overwhelmed clerk.
  • Binge Montage: In the scene where CLAY parties hard with the three girls they pick up on the street.
  • Blind Alley: Ben hides in a chamber at the Subway tunnel. The pursuers run by but one comes back but fails to properly check inside the chamber.
  • Bookends: The movie opens with a scene towards the end where Ben enters a hotel room. We revisit this moment again right before the final scene.
  • Broken Pedestal: MRX is an idol in the hacker scene. Until it turns out he makes deals with the Russian cyber mafia.
  • Calling Card: Discussed by Ben:
    Ben: Most of the hackers just crack the threshold, look around the system and don't change a thing. Others leave a note. And many, take a souvenir.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The three shells that belong to Ben's grandfather are later used as evidence for the killing of three CLAY members.
    • The nail Alex hurts himself with becomes an important plot point later on.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Marie studies law which comes in handy when she confirms that the witness protection program is not permitted for mentally ill candidates.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: While Max and Ben have a fight, Paul notices the TV news announcing the death of Krypton.
  • The Commandments: MRX' three rules:
    1. No system is safe.
    2. Aim for the impossible.
    3. Have fun in cyberspace and meatspace.
  • Conveniently Timed Guard: After Ben completes the download of the exam questions at the university's server room, a guard appears out of nowhere. Busted!
  • Cool Code of Source: Can be seen whenever Ben works his skills on a laptop.
  • Cool Mask: The CLAY members wear masks reminiscent of the one worn by Guy Fawkes.
  • The Cracker: MRX is a ruthless hacker who sells information to the Russian cyber mafia. His actions get Krypton killed.
  • Cyber Punk Is Techno: The CLAY members celebrate their successful hacking of the BND by dancing to techno music at a club.
  • Downer Beginning: The movie starts with the hero entering a hotel room with three dead bodies inside.
  • Dueling Hackers: WhoAmI versus MRX.
  • Dye or Die: Ben dyes his hair blond at the end for obvious reasons.
  • Everything Is Online: CLAY is able to manipulate the lighting system of a building from an entry point outside the location.
  • Extreme Graphical Representation: The animation of the female operator during the Phone-Trace Race, with red dots and lines representing the different servers that CLAY uses to hide its traces.
  • Face Cam: Ben's face is shown this way swiftly when being chased by MRX's henchmen through Copenhagen.
  • Foreign Language Title: The movie title consists of the hero's English online nickname.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Subverted. In the opening Flash Forward scene there is a dead man in a tub with blood dripping from his tattooed hand. Later we learn that this hand belongs to CLAY member Stephan which points to him getting killed later in the story. However, the opening scene was a fake and Stephan wasn't to die after all.
  • Freeze-Frame Introduction:
  • Gilligan Cut: First Paul refuses to ride in the new Porsche. Cut to the next scene where he screams of joy in the driver seat.
  • Hacked by a Pirate: When CLAY hacks the German stock market, they show the DAX's daily curve in form of the finger which causes some irritation in the commentator.
  • Hacker Cave: The house of Ben's grandmother serves as this for CLAY.
  • Hacker Collective: A group of four hackers found a collective called "CLAY" (Clowns Laughing At You) who score a big coup by hacking the BND (German intelligence agency).
  • Held Gaze: Between Ben and Marie when they first meet in the library.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Played straight with Ben's way of hacking (using zero-day exploits) etc.). Subverted with Max's approach to exploit human weakness instead of security systems.
  • How We Got Here: The movie opens towards the end of the story where Ben enters a hotel room to find dead people inside. The rest of the movie tells the story of how he got to that point.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: The driving force behind Ben and Alex' actions throughout the movie.
  • Imagine Spot: Ben imagining himself and Marie getting married and live Happily Ever After, once he helped her with the exam answers.
  • The Internet Is for Cats: Invoked by CLAY when emailing the BND secretary with kitty photos and a link to a phishing site.
  • Interrogation Flashback: Ben turns himself in at the beginning of the movie. His story then unfolds in flashbacks while being interrogated.
  • It Runs in the Family: Invoked by Ben who makes Hanne think he suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder, the same disease his mother was plagued with.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: The CLAY members use garbage man uniforms to get into the dumps where the BND trash is disposed.
  • Letters 2 Numbers: The hacker group ''FR13NDS".
  • Love at First Sight: Ben is visually stunned when seeing Marie for the first time.
    • Although it's not exactly the first sight, as they were in the same class at school for years.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Being deeply in love with Marie, Ben decides to steal the exam questions for her but gets caught in the process.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: CLAY's clown masks. Also everybody on Darknet is wearing a creepy mask.
  • Match Cut: From Ben looking down at the flyer for Max's party to him standing with the flyer in front of the house.
  • Matrix Raining Code: The movie poster features it.
  • Missing Mom: Ben's mother killed herself as she became weary of her Multiple Personality Disorder.
  • Multilayer Façade: When MRX unmasks WhoAmI in the Darknet, the latter has another mask beneath it. And another, and another.
  • Online Alias: WhoAmI and MRX amongst others.
  • Parental Abandonment: Ben grew up with his grandma because his father left when he was born and his mother committed suicide when he was eight. Discussed early on:
    Ben: Every superhero needs a tragic family story: Spiderman's parents... Dead. Batman's parents... Murdered. Superman's parents... Exploded. I actually had the best requirements.
  • Phone-Trace Race: Done with IP addresses. The Special Task Force manages to locate CLAY at a Berlin State Library and rushes over to catch them red-handed but arrives too late. Discussed by Stephan:
    Stephan: "We're too long online, man!"
  • Playful Hacker: CLAY before they go serious and hack the BND.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: When delivering pizzas to the library, Ben cites a famous line from Superman that Marie doesn't get. Leads to an awkward moment of silence.
  • Protagonist Title: WhoAmI is Ben's online alias.
  • Raised by Grandparents: After his mother committed suicide Ben was raised by his grandma and later he returned the favor and took care of her.
  • Rapid-Fire Typing: Ben types extremely fast.
  • Rebel Relaxation: When Ben and Max first meet at community service, the latter does this pose against a wall while smoking a cigarette.
  • The Reveal: The film features a double Twist Ending complete with a revelatory montage.
  • Sinister Subway: When chased through Copenhagen, Ben ends up in a dark subway tunnel.
  • Spinning Paper: CLAY's hacking actions before the BND coup are compressed in a montage of newspaper headlines and reactions in society.
  • Split Personality: Ben makes Hanne believe he suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder.
  • Stepping Out for a Quick Cup of Coffee: Hanne lets Ben into the Server room and gives him five minutes to manipulate the witness protection program to create himself a new identity.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: How Max got Ben to work with him. Lampshaded by the latter.
    Ben: I should've simply sat there. But it was like an invisible rope between us.
  • Trojan Horse: A digital variant. Ben plants a Trojan inside a Trojan to uncover MRX's identity. But the plan fails as MRX looks through the trick and rejects the virus program that was originally meant to help him hack into the Europol system.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The story Ben tells the interrogator turns out to be false.
  • You Must Be Cold: Ben covers his grandma with his jacket when finding her lost in the streets.