Sunday, December 13, 2015

We Steal Secrets:The Story of WikiLeaks (2013)

Alex Gibney's film on WikiLeaks focuses on its founder Julian Assange, as well as one of his sources Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning who was caught by military authorities when they realized that he was the source of hundreds of thousands of documents passed to the website.

Acting as a biography of Assange and the organization he founded Gibney has made a film that manages present the now exiled free speech advocate as both a savior and a man with his own agenda. It's a film that leaves you feeling very troubled because you don't know what Assange's game is. Assange is shown to be a man who very much believes that all information being available to all people is a good thing, except as several of his supporters point out that it's not because it could (and did) get some people killed. We watch as Assange changes from being a fly in the ointment to a wanted rock star who may have gotten too big an ego boost from all that happens. Perhaps he thought he was too big to fail.

(Bonus points to Gibney for taking on the rape charges head on by interviewing one of the women involved. Its clear that the sex wasn't rape, however apparently Assange intentionally tore the condoms for reason no one quite knows. All of the fuss was simply because the women wanted Assange to take an AIDS test and refused to. Since if he had AIDS the intentional infection of someone would be a crime the police got involved.)

By the late stages of the film as Assange's behavior becomes more suspect, everyone begins to ask the most obvious question is he heroic? While many people applaud his releasing documents it becomes clear that he really never took any risk, while Manning, who had been feeding WikiLeaks documents ended up thrown in jail. Who is the hero and who isn't?

To be honest there is a great deal of information here-the film runs 130 minutes  which is at least 40 minutes more than most docs. Plus the DVD has 25 minutes of deleted scenes making two and a hal hours of material to take in. There's so much here that I really need to see itagain, especially since what you find out towards the end affects how you feel about the beginning.

For me this is one of Gibney's best films and a must see.

(allow me a moment of snark- if you've seen this I have to ask how could you be shocked by Snowden's revelations in CITIZEN FOUR since what he reveals there is implied or mentioned outright here)

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