By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
The story of WikiLeaks is finally getting the Hollywood treatment later this year, in typical, just a tad too late to feel current fashion. Even if the holding pattern in the Julian Assange/WikiLeaks saga continues, however, expect that film to reignite the conversation.
Among the Cumberbitches, at least
And even if a feature film starring Sherlock and/but directed by the last Twilight guy doesn’t get any Oscar buzz going, don’t be surprised if WikiLeaks still makes an appearance at the event via this film. We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks is a documentary from lauded documentarian Alex Gibney (Taxi To the Dark Side), following the intertwining stories of Julian Assange and the world-shaking whistleblower website he helped create.
Gibney is attempting to tell as complete a story as he can with this film, and to a large extent succeeds. Even if you are already well-informed on the subject, you will find new perspectives and depths for it, and if you only have a passing familiarity as I did, this is as good a way as any to get caught up in the space of a couple of hours.
A particular coup of Gibney’s is the range of interviews he is able to include, particularly one of the women who accused Assange of sexual assault and an especially open and revealing one with Adrian Lamo, in which he reveals the moral confliction he had in giving up Bradley Manning to the government in an undeniably heartfelt way. Manning’s story is the true heart of this film, and the way Gibney flashes text messages of his on screen juxtaposed with other details of his story is heartrending.
A definite first for text messaging
On the other hand, the way he documents Assange and WikiLeak’s short lifespan is less emotional, at times almost playing like a real-life espionage thriller. It’s easy to see why Hollywood was interested in this material besides its historical significance, which becomes even more apparent as Assange’s personal troubles become increasingly mixed up in the fate of his organization. Here the story shifts to a portrait of a man whose increasing paranoia sets him at odds with the very ideals he once championed.
Gibney ends his film powerfully, and afterwards we’re left with the question of whether we’re better off in a world without WikiLeaks or not. It unquestionably changed things, and for awhile looked as if it would help shift the power structure of the world away from the calcified institutions that run it. For all of its (and Assange’s) obvious faults, in WikiLeaks have we lost something essential to real, unabridged Democracy?
While trying to provide a comprehensive picture of the WikiLeaks story, Gibney at times tends to over-explain. I know how the internet works, Alex, thanx.
Obviously, it’s a series of tubes…
The one glaring omission in the film is of Assange himself. That’s not entirely Gibney’s fault, as he understandably isn’t interested in paying Assange’s million dollar “going rate.” However, as the negative opinions of the man begin to really accumulate, the lack of his side of the story is distinctly felt.
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks is a well-made, engaging summary of one of the biggest, most influential stories of our times.
Take a Drink: whenever Julian Assange gets called a hero
Take a Drink: whenever he gets called a villain
Take a Drink: whenever Adrian Lama duckfaces
Take a Drink: whenever Assange is a delightfully cocky bastard
Do a Shot: whenever he’s just a dick