Release date: 4th July 2013
Director: Alex Gibney
Review by Peter Gray
Detailing the controversial website created by Julian Assange, ‘We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks’ is an unbiased account of how a hacker from Australia managed to facilitate the largest security breach in American history. An idol of free-speech to some and a terrorist traitor to others, Assange is a figure who demands attention, and under the direction of Alex Gibney we witness his rise and fall without any agenda.
Whilst I wasn’t ignorant on the Assange/WikiLeaks front, I was far from completely informed so the film to me, as I’m sure it will be to others in my situation and even those who are aware of the generalities, drew together the unrelated pieces of evidence and conjecture about its subject matter in a coherent manner. Gibney isn’t here to skew our perception of Assange; he’s simply presenting the facts as they have been compiled from the various followers, fans, enemies and panellists that have bared witness to a particular aspect of Assange’s personality.
Though ‘We Steal Secrets’ is an Assange documentary first and foremost, the detailing of Private First Class Bradley Manning and his involvement in highlighting the behind-the-scenes workings of the U.S. government’s international diplomacy and military strategy is what proves to be the most fascinating. A young soldier who was as troubled as he was brilliant, Manning downloaded hundreds of thousands of classified documents from the U.S. military and released them into the online atmosphere after confiding in another hacker, Adrian Lamo, who ultimately betrayed him. It’s evident at how psychologically tortured Manning is, both by his own personal demons and by the military, and the distress he feels at what he has done is something the audience can sympathise with. At no point does the film ever justify Manning’s actions, but if there’s one person to genuinely care for, it’s Bradley.
As the story balances between the gender confusion of Bradley Manning and the odd sex-symbol status Julian Assange achieved, which in turn allows a segue to the rape allegations he was faced with, the sensationalism of the whole situation remains intact – none of it fabricated. As Oscar Wilde wrote in ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple”. Truer words have rarely been spoken when discussing this fascinating documentary.
My rating 3.5/5 (Secrets are stolen but our time and interest isn’t)