Director: Alex Gibney
Hacker, traitor, genius, terrorist, hero, dickwad. These are all words that have been used to describe Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Apart from the last one – I just wanted to get the word ‘dickwad’ into a review. So which one is he? Well the answer is a lot more complicated than that.
We Steal Secrets : The Story of Wikileaks is a documentary by Alex Gibney telling, guess what? Yes, the story of Wikileaks. The film couldn’t be coming out at a more relevant time with that Edward Snowden guy on the run like Will Smith in Enemy of the State. Which would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. What is funny though is the start of We Steal Secrets which begins with the story of the ‘Wank worm’ an early bit of hacking by Assange and becomes more and more serious as the stakes are raised
with hilarious consequences and lives are destroyed.
You get to find out how that organisation went from humble beginnings to being an entity that threatened and embarrassed whole governments. Gibney provides some narration but nothing too intrusive and let’s most of the main players talk candidly about events.
These experts come from all sides of the argument and includes ex Wikileaks members, high ranking government officials, and the journalists who helped Assange publish the information he obtained. The only noticeable omission is Assange himself, who didn’t take part for reasons we’ll come to later.
Rather than being a dry, step by step, retelling of the history of Wikileaks, this documentary asks some interesting and important questions such as ‘Why is Assange the target of the US authorities for leaking the info, while newspapers like The Guardian get off with doing the same thing?’.
The film is essentially about two men – Julian Assange and Bradley Manning. Manning was the US soldier who downloaded top secret files which he gave to Wikileaks. He is currently locked up awaiting trial for this crime. Manning is a fascinating character. He’s a man who can’t handle the atrocities he sees committed by the Army including an upsetting and brutal video of soldiers in a helicopter firing on and killing journalists. These were innocents whose’ cameras were mistaken for guns. The footage is extremely difficult to watch but gives an insight into Manning’s reasons for doing what he did.
Assange on the other hand appears to have different reasons for what he does with one being that he enjoys ‘crushing bastards’. This attitude is the foundation for a monumental ego trip – something the film tackles well. For example Assange asks for a million dollars for an interview for the movie which explains his absence.
I thoroughly recommend We Steal Secrets. It’s a gripping, enlightening study of an organisation that deals in secrets. The candid interviews really shed light on the motives and internal battles of Wikileaks making it another must see documentary from Alex Gibney.
We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks opens in the UK on 12th July 2013