Director: Alex Gibney
Studio: Jigsaw Productions
Stars: Julian Assange, Adrian Lamo, Bradley Manning
Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney has a great nose for worldwide scandals. Having already taken on, in under a decade, no less than Enron, widespread sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, torture, Jack Abramoff and Eliot Spitzer, he’s now turned his sights on WikiLeaks, the website that through anonymous sources exposed classified information, much of it damning, of the United States' conduct throughout two dirty wars.
At the movie's center is WikiLeaks' lightning rod, Julian Assange, the charismatic silver-haired teller of hard truths who briefly became a worldwide media rock star until sex assault allegations turned him into something every bit as secretive as the people and institutions he set out to unmask. So much for transparency. But in Gibney’s film, beautifully edited by Andy Grieve, the cool, emotionally remote Assange (now in asylum in London in the Ecuadorian Embassy) is thoroughly upstaged by Bradley Manning, an Iraq War soldier and intelligence analyst who passed readily accessible U.S. military documents to WikiLeaks, leading to his court martial and imprisonment. It’s Manning who provides the film’s emotional heartbeat and, maybe, its biggest source of anger. A lonely, sexually muddled, emotionally fragile guy who began online conversations with a hacker named Adrian Lamo who, in the end, ratted him out, Manning emerges as the ultimate sympathetic fall guy.
We Steal Secrets is big, complex, entertaining and spellbinding. Although its narrative continues to unfold right this minute, the film does what good documentaries must do. Equal parts spine-tingling spy thriller and an attempt to blast through the fog of war in the age of technology and transparency, it exposes uncomfortable truths, engages the intellect and emotions, and, most of all, it outrages.