Christian Caryl is a Senior Fellow at the Legatum Institute and the editor of Foreign Policy’s Democracy Lab website. His latest book is Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the Twenty-first Century.
 (February 2016)


The Force of Nostalgia

Rey (Daisy Ridley) freeing the droid BB-8 from the net of the scavenger Teedo and his semi-mechanical Luggabeast in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

a film directed by J.J. Abrams
I’d expected the theater to be populated by teenagers in Jedi robes and white plastic armor, but most of the audience looked pretty much like us: middle-aged moms and dads and their offspring. The uniquely broad demographic appeal of the Star Wars universe probably goes a long way toward explaining the astounding success of the film.

The Bombs in Boston

A surveillance photo released by the Boston Police Department during its search for the Tsarnaev brothers, showing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in a gas station while fleeing the police, Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 18, 2013

The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy

by Masha Gessen

Long Mile Home: Boston Under Attack, the City’s Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice

by Scott Helman and Jenna Russell
The trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the sole surviving perpetrator of the Boston Marathon bombings, took only thirty-three days. On April 8 a jury declared the twenty-one-year-old guilty of one of the most heinous crimes in recent American history; then, on May 8, they sentenced him to death. Many years will …

Saving Alan Turing from His Friends

Alan Turing as a young man

The Imitation Game

a film directed by Morten Tyldum

Alan Turing: The Enigma

by Andrew Hodges
I can imagine many possible ways of turning Alan Turing’s story into a movie. Yes, one can imagine the obstacles—among them the sheer eventfulness of the man’s life, and the fact that many of his most dramatic discoveries were predicated on knowledge of sophisticated mathematics (that well-known bane of the moviemaker). Yet none of this should serve as an excuse. The choice seems clear: either you embrace the richness of Turing as a character and trust the audience to follow you there, or you simply capitulate, by reducing him to a caricature of the tortured genius. The latter, I’m afraid, is the path chosen by The Imitation Game’s director and screenwriter.

The Small Sects Under Fire

Yazidi men from Sinjar, northern Iraq, at a makeshift camp on the outskirts of the Kurdish-controlled town of Derek, Syria, after fleeing Islamic State militants, August 2014

Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East

by Gerard Russell, with a foreword by Rory Stewart
In August, President Obama announced a series of air strikes against the advancing forces of the Islamic State (IS), the self-declared “caliphate” in northern Iraq. The aim was not only to support embattled Kurdish forces in the region, but also to protect thousands of beleaguered members of the mysterious religious …


My Star Wars

Opening day of George Lucas's Star Wars at Grauman's Chinese theater, May 25, 1977

What a lot of the current rumination about the Star Wars franchise misses is the way the original movie stood out from the rest of Seventies filmmaking. All we knew was that we’d just seen something amazingly fresh and we left the theater feeling mysteriously liberated.

Burma: How Much Change?

An illustration of Aung San Suu Kyi, chair of the National League for Democracy (NLD), at the NLD party headquarters in Rangoon, Burma, November 13, 2015

“Change” is a word that crops up in many conversations in Burma these days. After decades of struggle Aung San Suu Kyi has achieved her greatest triumph—her NLD appears to have won an overwhelming 80 percent of parliamentary seats—one can only hope that she will wield her mandate to the best effect, and that she can successfully overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of the transformation her voters want.

A Poor Imitation of Alan Turing

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, 2014

The Imitation Game, the new film about the mathematician and codebreaker Alan Turning, seems determined to suggest maximum tension between him and a blinkered society. But this completely destroys any coherent telling of what Turing and his colleagues were trying to do.

Why Sochi?

Monument to Russian-Georgian Friendship (1799–1817), Gudauri, Georgia, 2013

Why on earth would the Kremlin decide to host the Games in an underdeveloped place where terrorists lurk nearby—a place that The New York Times describes as “the edge of a war zone”? The answer is not as complicated as it may seem. Vladimir Putin comes from St. Petersburg. He rules from Moscow. But it is the North Caucasus that launched him on his path to the summit of Russian power.