Review: We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
Alex Gibney is a talented documentary filmmaker who has made some terrific films (Especially “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God” and “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief”), but the subject matter he deals with in this 2013 film has never and will never interest me in the slightest. I think both sides of the WikiLeaks/Julian Assange debate over-egg things to be perfectly honest, not to mention that those on the Right who were initially anti-Assange now love the guy because he helped derail Hillary Clinton’s bid for Presidency, which just makes me roll my eyes. I also just find the whole thing rather tedious, much the same feeling I have about the Edward Snowden story. If pressed I’d probably fall on the side of being anti-WikiLeaks as I think there is at least a potential danger or recklessness in what WikiLeaks does. I also think Assange is a preening, egotistical anarchist and a complete tit of a human being (Though I think the rape case against him was both ludicrous and baffling). I completely disagree with Aussie journo Mark Davis who suggests Assange is/was very much concerned with the contents of the leaks. It’s bullshit as far as I’m concerned. That’s not what it’s about for Assange. It’s about being in power/control himself, and wrecking the ‘system’ (both sides if given the chance). He wants to be seen as instrumental in whatever replaces that which has helped tear down. Although some important stuff has indeed been uncovered by WikiLeaks with genuine merit, it’s been overblown/overhyped and the sooner we stop making them and Assange seem important the better. Also, in the case of the Clinton leaks, WikiLeaks have been somewhat self-defeating on a political level. I know Assange hates both major sides of the political system, but he still comes across as the type of guy for whom the Left side of politics would be the better home for than the Right. By doing what he did to Clinton, he aligned himself with Trump and even Fox News have turned around and treated him like a trusted source (Sean Hannity sure has done a turnaround on Assange, laughably). He has allowed himself to be used by the Right, and when given a chance, they’ll spit him out once he starts digging up dirt on Trump (which probably won’t take long). In a nutshell, both the Left and Right love or hate WikiLeaks and Assange dependent upon when it’s convenient to their side of politics.
I will say that the first 15 minutes of the film do hold a bit of interest as we see the leading up to the emergence of Assange and WikiLeaks. The next 90 or so minutes? Zzzzz. For the most part I’m not nearly as fascinated by WikiLeaks as I apparently should be nor do I consider Assange any kind of hero nor a terrorist. That said, I do applaud the Aussie hacker for coming up with a worm with the acronym W.A.N.K. Even I’ll pay that one. Less appreciated was Gibney’s decision to bring in the case of Bradley/Chelsea Manning, who was only brought up here for sensationalistic/salacious purposes rather than anything loftier. I mean, there’s certainly not much time devoted to what Manning actually specifically leaked to WikiLeaks. The film seems more concerned with Manning’s own internal issues of self and gender identity. What really bothered me about that is that the film spends way too much time on Manning in a film about Assange and WikiLeaks. There is some relevance, but not nearly enough to justify the amount of time devoted to Manning’s story.
The worst thing though, is that Gibney paints Assange in a clearly positive light for 99% of the film. The one time he doesn’t? The rape case, which as we now know has been thrown out! FFS, I know no one knew the result at the time, but it just made me shake my head. I’m sorry, but for me this film was as fun as watching paint dry while the grass grows. No matter how hard I try, and through no real fault of Gibney my giveashit factor about this is very, very minor. I think Assange’s celebrity status and criminal status are both overrated. I think his sex crime case is the real story here, and like almost every media piece done about him, that’s the story that gets the least coverage. Sorry, but I found this dry documentary pretty tedious and far too sympathetic towards Assange to boot. Your mileage may be wildly different.