There have been more than a few attempts to get the story of Ross William Ulbricht on screen over the last few years. A few of those have been successful, especially the Epix series Deep Web, which was narrated by Keanu Reeves and directed by Alex Winter of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure fame. Most of them, however, have essentially just curdled into a wildly biased harangue against the age of the internet and generations of young people who have grown up with the utility. And yes, of course, internet addiction exists and has ruined plenty of lives, but most of these movies give 90% of their focus to the negatives and only a fleeting, shrug-worthy mention of the frankly unfathomable positives that the world wide web has given us over the decades.
It’s hard to tell if that will be the case with Joel and Ethan Coen when they step up to the plate to ponder the internet and its aftermath. Variety reports today that the filmmaking duo, who have produced some of the best American films of the last three or four decades, will next be taking on a screenplay for Dark Web, which would track Ulbricht’s life and his creation of the vast online marketplace known as “The Silk Road.” For those not aware, Ulbricht’s Silk Road was buried deep in the internet, a place referred to as the “dark web,” where users can trade anything from body parts and weapons to drugs and outre pornography.
Crime author Dennis Lehane did the first pass at the script in 2013 and this movie has been bouncing around between studios and producers since then. It’s still unclear who will direct the movie but with the Coens now on scripting duties, interest in the project, which is set up at 20th Century Fox, will no doubt rise immediately. Just last year, their script for Bridge of Spies led to one of Steven Spielberg‘s best films in a long while, but that had the benefit of totally digested history. Whether or not their wit will survive in a modern-day context, away from their own invented stylistic worlds, is a question I’m impatient to see answered but with the reputations the Coens have at this point, there’s little doubt Dark Web will be one of the biggest events of whatever year in which it actually gets released.