Sorry, Edgar Winter, but some albino dudes are just downright creepy.
Julian Assange was like any other tech-lover in the world – the internet was his play-place where he could, say, and act anyway he wanted to. This is why he decides to do certain things like hack into certain security systems that show negligence on the company’s behalf. First, it was banks, then, it became government agencies who did not take kindly to someone as random and mysterious as Assange. Eventually though, word got out about Assange and sooner than later, they had a site where they could put any and all classified information that they stumbled upon – a little old website called “WikiLeaks”. On the site, users were able to anonymously and because of this, the government continued to target them more and more. However, Assange knew that these whistle blowers expected their identities to be hidden, which is why he stood up for almost every single person who was being looked into. And then, somehow, some way, it all changed; Assange, WikiLeaks, the whole internet world. Changed. And nobody really knows why, or who’s to blame.
It’s mighty difficult to approach a subject like WikiLeaks, or even Assange, without getting bogged down in all of the crazy, never ending bits of info, twists, turns, and new happenings that never seem to end. However, Alex Gibney is the kind of director who can be trusted in these sorts of situations; he knows that the best way to present any piece of information, is to do so in the most comprehensible, slow-manner imaginable, so that everyone feels as if they know what’s going on and what’s just been brought to the table. This may not sound like much for a person who has literally been making documentaries every year since 2005, but it matters a whole lot, especially when you’re dealing with murky waters like WikiLeaks and especially Assange.
In fact, definitely Assange.
However, what’s probably the most admirable choice that Gibney takes here (among many), is that he never really digs into Assange as much as he should, or definitely could have. Clearly, the movie isn’t very pro-Assange, but at the same time, they also don’t hate him, either; if anything, the movie shows that he may have started out with good intentions and a smart head on his shoulders, but after awhile, once fame and praise got in his ears, he couldn’t help but run wild. Gibney shows that the tech-world may have, at one point, been totally behind Assange’s back, no matter what, but then drastically turned on him once it turned out that he may not be exactly who he appears to be.
But really, Gibney doesn’t want to make the whole movie about Assange, even though he could have definitely done that and it would have been no problem. Instead, Gibney decides to bring up ideas and points about the current world in which we live in, where no secret is hidden and unable to be found. Nowadays, there’s hardly any privacy, everyone has a computer/technology-device, and you know what, anybody can hack into something in order to uncover those private secrets you may have hidden from the rest of the world.
But what Gibney asks about this reality is whether or not that’s a good thing in the first place?
Or, as he asks, are we giving random strangers too much power and control?
The movie itself falls somewhere in the middle, knowing that certain secrets ought to be brought to the news, because everyone has a right to know, but at the same time, knowing that certain things that aren’t really a matter of public concern deserve to be out and about for everyone else to see, either. Take, for instance, the iCloud Leak scandal – sure, a lot of pervs got their kicks off of nude pics from celebrities, but did this leak really need to happen? Could all of that energy and attention been devoted elsewhere to, well, I don’t know, the FBI? The CIA? Or, hell, anyone else except for Jennifer Lawrence?
Gibney brings these questions up, yet, never answers them and that’s fine – the movie isn’t necessarily as much about the answers, as much as it’s more about the world in which we live in. Also, Gibney doesn’t forget that a story like this, as compelling as it already is, can still be as exciting and fun to listen and watch, even if you already know everything that’s coming a mile away. If you don’t know the Assange and WikiLeaks story, then get out from underneath that rock.
But if you do, have no fear, because Alex Gibney still finds a way to make it all work.
Consensus: Informative, smart, exciting, and most of all, thoughtful, We Steal Secrets finds Gibney in top-form, even if the story itself is constantly expanding and getting more and more convoluted as we speak.
8 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire