I keep my work here at Flickfeast pretty apolitical. It’s about the movie, first and foremost, and it’s only occasionally that a documentary or film will lead me to have a bit of a rant that may ruffle some feathers. I try my best to avoid ruffling feathers here. That happens elsewhere, as a number of my friends can testify. Strangely enough, I never used to be all that politically-minded at all. I was one of many people who thought that nothing could make much of a change anyway, that certain situations would always remain the same despite the changing names and faces and, as the old saying goes, better the devil you know.
But we live in fast-moving, turbulent times. The internet has brought that about, as well as the ongoing activites by various governments around the world that have overstepped the mark and forced people to vocalise their dissent. Some institutions have crumbled, some have stayed when they really should have crumbled, riots have become more commonplace, laws are stretched and (in some cases) rewritten and, throughout it all, more and more voices are heard as corruption and . . . . . misbehaviour (to put it politely) is exposed on a daily basis to as wide an audience as possible on the world wide web.
Which brings us to WikiLeaks, a site that decided that transparency is the greatest thing that the world could have in these times. It was a site that dared to bare all (in the information sense) and Julian Assange was the man who made the many decisions that would lead to it becoming a, dare I say it, global phenomenon. Whether you believe or disbelieve in what it does, the core idea behind WikiLeaks is a pretty pure one. It’s all about being open, it’s a noble cause. Unfortunately, human beings are fallible and not always so noble. When cracks started to appear in the house that WikiLeaks built, they were caused, or made worse, by Assange.
Director Alex Gibney (previously best known, I’d say, for the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room) uses interviews with everyone involved, archive footage, some superb animation and even a couple of movie clips to provide audiences with a pretty thorough look at WikiLeaks and all of the main players, either directly involved or close enough to the events as everything started to unfold in the public eye in the biggest, most eye-grabbing, way. Assange, Bradley Manning, Michael Hayden, James Ball, Adrian Lamo, Mark Davis and Nick Davies.
He also makes the choice to look at the accusations that have dogged Assange over the past few years, a choice possibly derived from Assange’s own decision to keep himself and WikiLeaks as a joined entity. Those who hate Assange and everything he stands for will probably still hate him at the end of this. Those who support Assange and everything he stands for will probably still feel the same way too, but they might separate the man from the snowball that he started rolling downhill.
Just over two hours long, this never feels like a tough watch. Information and opinion is delivered in equal measure and hardly a minute goes by without something worth digesting. Even the more famous leaks act like a cold flannel on the face when they appear. It’s amazing how quickly the power of these images and this data can fade from the memory banks, lying there like smouldering kindling that just needs one little flame to get roaring back up again.
We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks does much more than just fire things up again, but that is one of the many reasons that you should see it. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s also ignorance.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: ALEX GIBNEY
STARS: JULIAN ASSANGE, BRADLEY MANNING, ADRIAN LAMO, JAMES BALL, MICHAEL HAYDEN, TIMOTHY DOUGLAS WEBSTER, NICK DAVIES, MARK DAVIS
RUNTIME: 130 MINS APPROX