Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
'Thor: The Dark World' Director Alan Taylor Says His Marvel Experience Was "Particularly Wrenching" 'Thor: The Dark World' Director Alan Taylor Says His Marvel Experience Was "Particularly Wrenching" Watch: Anna Paquin Is Rescued In Clip From 'X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Rogue Cut' Watch: Anna Paquin Is Rescued In Clip From 'X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Rogue Cut' Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man 2' Is "One Of The Best Superhero Movies Ever," Talks John Hughes Influence On New Spidey Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man 2' Is "One Of The Best Superhero Movies Ever," Talks John Hughes Influence On New Spidey Watch: Live Your Ultimate Fantasy With The First NSFW Trailer For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' Watch: Live Your Ultimate Fantasy With The First NSFW Trailer For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' Review & Recap: ‘True Detective’ Season 2, Episode 2, ‘Night Finds You’ Review & Recap: ‘True Detective’ Season 2, Episode 2, ‘Night Finds You’ Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight Of Cups’ Won’t Arrive Until 2016, Austin Music Scene Drama Not Titled ‘Weightless’ Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight Of Cups’ Won’t Arrive Until 2016, Austin Music Scene Drama Not Titled ‘Weightless’ The Punisher Will Reportedly Appear As The Villain In ‘Daredevil’ Season 2 The Punisher Will Reportedly Appear As The Villain In ‘Daredevil’ Season 2 'Lucy 2' And 'Colombiana 2' Are In Development 'Lucy 2' And 'Colombiana 2' Are In Development Mixed Reactions For Marvel's 'Ant-Man' After First Press Screening Plus New Promos And Pics Mixed Reactions For Marvel's 'Ant-Man' After First Press Screening Plus New Promos And Pics The Essentials: The 5 Best Rachel McAdams Performances The Essentials: The 5 Best Rachel McAdams Performances Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man' Is "Definitely A Sony Picture," Talks Role Of 'Ant-Man' In Phase 3, More Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man' Is "Definitely A Sony Picture," Talks Role Of 'Ant-Man' In Phase 3, More First Reviews For 'Terminator Genisys' Suggest Franchise Didn't Need To Say "I'll Be Back" First Reviews For 'Terminator Genisys' Suggest Franchise Didn't Need To Say "I'll Be Back" Kit Harington & Dakota Fanning Replace Robert Pattinson & Mia Wasikowska In 'Brimstone' Kit Harington & Dakota Fanning Replace Robert Pattinson & Mia Wasikowska In 'Brimstone' The Essentials: The 5 Best Colin Farrell Perfomances The Essentials: The 5 Best Colin Farrell Perfomances The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 10 All-Time Best Episodes Of 'Parks And Recreation' The 10 All-Time Best Episodes Of 'Parks And Recreation' The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: Provocative Doc 'We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks' Is Essential Immediate Viewing

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist May 22, 2013 at 11:35AM

Titles can be sticky, none moreso than “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks.” The “we” mentioned could be speaking in first-person perspective in regards to the muckracking online collective, which helped power the biggest security breach in government history. Then again, is the story of WikiLeaks anything other than our story? The story of anyone online who’s ever wanted to know more, who ever wanted to remove the veil of secrecy? If anything, director Alex Gibney might have shot himself in the foot: he could never begin to grasp the magnitude of our collective societal curiosity that has helped bring down walls during the current administration.
8

We Steal Secrets
Titles can be sticky, none moreso than “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks.” The “we” mentioned could be speaking in first-person perspective in regards to the muckracking online collective, which helped power the biggest security breach in government history. Then again, is the story of WikiLeaks anything other than our story? The story of anyone online who’s ever wanted to know more, who ever wanted to remove the veil of secrecy? If anything, director Alex Gibney might have shot himself in the foot: he could never begin to grasp the magnitude of our collective societal curiosity that has helped bring down walls during the current administration.

Nevertheless, “We Steal Secrets” seems unfinished (fair enough, given it tells a story that's still in progress), but never inadequate, doubling back to present an account on the beginnings of WikiLeaks. This involves perusing the considerable intellect and damning vanity of Julian Assange, who has smartly denounced this doc on the grounds of illegitimacy, given that he’s a man with a definite image to protect. “We Steal Secrets” is actually mostly favorable towards Assange as far as his impact on societies ranging from earlier free speech battles. But it also doesn’t fail to acknowledge Assange’s love of the spotlight, his theatrical intelligence allowing for grandiose statements about freedom and the illusory notion that he is “one of the people.” Worth noting: Assange’s lack of approval for this doc comes without him having seen or participated in it.

We Steal Secrets

“We Steal Secrets” casts enough a wide net, but its principal points of focus seem to be Assange and Pvt. Bradley Manning, who gave up a surplus of secrets to WikiLeaks simply because he had no one else to reach out towards. The media has done an excellent job of either eulogizing or demonizing Manning without the public knowing much, so it doesn’t take a whole lot to humanize him. And what is discovered through text and deeper investigation is that Manning, considered treasonous by some, was not only a very real, very complex person, but also one that acted while in a deep emotional pain.

Gibney’s doc isn’t foolish or emotional enough to suggest Manning’s condition is a cause-and-effect of his leak, but it forces us to consider the presence of a lonely, disillusioned loner with a confused identity surrounded not only by people with no common interests, but also a “What happens in Kabul stays in Kabul” attitude towards wrongdoing. His wizardry in the field of computers is seen as his only conduit, technology providing this loner with his only means of communication. It’s damning not only that the military wouldn’t be proactive as far as Manning’s depression and introversion (his sexuality in particular is something he’s discovered is a bit more fluid than he expected), but in allowing someone with Manning’s skill level to access military technology and bandwidth to release these damaging documents and files.

We Steal Secrets

His conversations with a wayward hacker reveal not only someone deeply interested in the secrets behind what could have been considered war crimes (we see some harrowing, inexcusably sloppy military footage that shows the deaths of innocents), but also two lonely people floating in cyberspace: when Manning confesses his homosexuality to his confidante, his “me too” is touching, suggesting that Manning had finally found the closest thing to a kindred spirit. Which makes it all the more heartbreaking when that paranoid net junkie, Adrian Lamo, turned Manning in for his information cache. Knowing that Manning was eventually captured and detained by the U.S. government for a full year without a trial or specific charge lends the film the chilling air that Lamo probably saved his own skin (Manning finally plead guilty to ten counts in court this February).

“We Steal Secrets” is paced with a level of even-headed righteous indignation, like a late-period album from a punk stalwart. It’s impossible to not feel the gravity of what’s at stake, as the film emphasizes not the public response (which was nil, following the first week of outrage), nor the wayward punditry (thank God) but rather the bare essentials. The greater focus lies on the footage of slain innocents at the hands of soldiers, collateral damage of which there is no excuse. Gibney wisely avoids the trap a lesser filmmaker would seek, an “even-handed” approach to the interviews that would allow for some suited military representative to find a buzzword-ish explanation for the lost lives. Of course, they can’t seem to help themselves: one Rumsfeldian rep verbally wallpapers over the deaths of innocents by discussing the importance of secrecy to the government, in a conversational manner that suggests the sort of cold-bloodedness you only see in superhero movies.

Still, Gibney’s film shakes and swirls with a pop rhythm: a memorable bit reveals that Manning procured a number of confidential files while blaring Lady Gaga’s “Telephone,” a revelation that merits much further unpacking. And Gibney seems to understand, without judging, the egotism that results in Assange’s and Manning’s actions, as the latter had such little control over his own world that the WikiLeaks correspondence gave his attitude a considerable boost. Information is power, the film argues, and that power can often imbue even the smallest ant enough to save his life. Despite a lack of access to Manning and Assange, “We Steal Secrets” is a vital document of a pivotal moment in world history that we’re still experiencing as we speak. [A-]       

This article is related to: We Steal Secrets: The Story Of Wikileaks, Review, Reviews, Alex Gibney


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates