Following the story of the eccentric self-made billionaire of the shipping industry, Nobu Su, Thomas Meadmore’s engaging new documentary The Outsider takes viewers into strange realms, exploring both the Taiwanese tycoon’s worldview and the inner workings of high finance as it unravels a possible conspiracy theory surrounding the near collapse of his enterprise. With a larger-than-life character like Su taking the spotlight, there’s rarely a dull moment to be found. However, there’s perhaps too much time spent getting to know the businessman’s quirks than delving into the conspiracy framing the film.
As a character study, the feature’s main subject could be best described as the Tommy Wiseau of the shipping industry; despite his unquestionable success, his almost childlike wonderment and unique (and peculiar) charisma give him a sense of naivety – as if he was swimming well out of his depth. Likewise, the director takes extra care whilst exploring what makes the mogul tick in order to paint a more complex, morally grey personality. Spending time in this man’s world – with Su giving you the grand tour – is well worth the ticket price alone.
Something which Meadmore does equally well is presenting the financial jargon that populates his documentary in an easily digestible way. Through charming animated sequences and simple analogies, viewers are equipped with just enough information to follow the narrative as it develops, without feeling as if they’re being lectured. Part of this is also due to the sly humour that can be found within the filmmaker’s strategic edits, alongside the selection of enigmatic talking heads who give their own opinions of the business giant.
When the film is focused on uncovering the banking scandal, it’s highly engaging and entertaining, but far too often, prolonged tangents are taken to focus on trivial parts of Su’s life that act like speed bumps on a rollercoaster; the more exciting parts are coming, but first you need to sit through something else.
In many ways, this feature is meant as a character study of a unique and unknown man who has been treated unjustly for his trust in a system that was supposed to protect him, and in this respect, The Outsider is fascinating. However, it’s the documentary’s desire to change course between playing detective and voyeur that stops it from becoming something incredible – though that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time.
The Outsider is released in select cinemas on 20th April 2018 and will be available on iTunes in May 2018.
Read our interview with director Thomas Meadmore here
The Outsider premieres as part of the East End Film Festival 2018.
Watch the trailer for The Outsider here: