Film Review: ‘We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks’ by Erica Laxson

WikiLeaks has been critically captured by filmmaker Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) in the digitally layered David & Goliath story of Julian Assange in We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks. Despite immediately receiving condemnation by Assange himself and being declared an ‘illegitimate’ version of events, Gibney proudly presents information about the globally recognized website from those who were closest to Assange. We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks is a beautifully composed visualization of uncovered secrets, revealing confidential documents, and exploration the lives of the people behind their exposure.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

WikiLeaks, the infamous anonymous file depository, is the subject of this compelling digital representation of a story that developed almost entirely on the internet and was easily translated to the screen by Gibney’s digital wizardry. Assange’s involvement with the film is merely clips of past footage and revealing interviews with his closest confidants who did agree to be on camera and were charmed by Gibney into telling their incredible version of events. From multiple perspectives, Assange’s life, history, and future is built before our eyes and we’re left wondering what this digital Robin Hood turned pariah will do with his life.

Though fairly unbiased, most viewers will find themselves learning about the Australian technical genius. Densely packed with information and exposition, even the most engaged in the audience may feel overwhelmed at times. For Assange’s devote fans, it feels as if Gibney weaves unjust tales of unbelievable truths that attack their seemingly infallible digital hero. To his opponents, Gibney highlights too much of the good he did and far too little of the suffering his information caused, be it real, perceived, or seemingly deserving. For the uninitiated, Gibney summarizes the creation of WikiLeaks from inception to its downfall with stimulation imagery and from a variety of points of view.

Interviews with journalist James Ball, former WikiLeaks spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg, filmmaker Mark Davis, and many others reveal the inner workings of the non-profit, identity protecting website, and delve into Assange’s private life and its effects on their cause. From exposing military scandals to ensuring the prosecution of people guilty of tax evasion, we learn that Assange quickly became ‘Enemy #1’ to those with something to hide.

11170464_oriThe film touches on many of the biggest stories the WikiLeaks website was able to publish before Assange was forced into hiding. Bradley Manning and his incriminating online conversations with hacker-turned-self-proclaimed-patriot Adrian Lamo flit across the screen in stylistic simplicity. Representative imagery used for the key events in Assange’s life give a wonderful digitized feeling to the entire documentary. A well-organized, thought-provoking film that will answer many questions, but raise more that you started with.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks is a compelling look at the revolutionary publication of classified documents, the organization behind the protected info dumps, and the man who conceived it all.

Running Time: 130 minutes. Rated R.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks opens Friday, May 31, 2013 at AFI Silver Theatre Cultural Center – 86633 Colesville Road, in Silver Spring, MD. For tickets and showtimes, visit them online, or call (301) 495-6700.


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