Sunday, November 29, 2015

'We Steal Secrets': Fascinating real-life WikiLeaks thriller

Julian Assange in the riveting doc "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks."
Julian Assange in the riveting doc "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks."
About the movie
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
MPAA rating:
for some disturbing violent images, language and sexual material
Running time:
Release date:
Adrian Lamm; Julian Assange
Directed by:
Alex Gibney

A real-life cyber-thriller with real-life consequences, Alex Gibney's We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks is a riveting and revelatory documentary that plays out on the ground in Melbourne, London, Baghdad, Stockholm, Reykjavík, and Washington - and everywhere in the thrumming realms of the Internet.

It is the story of Julian Assange, who first ran afoul of the law as a teenager in Australia, charged with hacking into the computer systems of a Canadian telecom company and the U.S. Air Force. In 2006, he launched WikiLeaks, setting out to "shift regime behavior" by releasing classified documents and exposing governments and corporations the world over.

He was a self-styled "transparency radical" - believing that the truth should be out there for all to see, that secrets lead to lies, to oppression, to the compromise of democracy.

And Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army private assigned to an intel unit in Iraq, believed in WikiLeaks, too. So much so that in 2009, he proceeded to release thousands and thousands of documents - a video of a Baghdad helicopter strike in which Reuters journalists, Iraqi civilians, and two children were killed by U.S. gunships; top secret State Department and Pentagon dossiers and e-mail streams - to Assange's site.

More coverage
  • 'The Internship' would be charming, if it weren't so creepy
  • A taut, eerie espionage drama
  • 'Before Midnight': After the romance, the challenges of life
  • Shyamalan, Smith and son experience life 'After Earth'
  • And then the Guardian, the New York Times, and Der Spiegel published some of those documents, giving WikiLeaks a legitimate platform - and a new profile and prominence. Assange became a kind of rock star to his fans and followers, and a pesky menace to the Bush and Obama administrations, to governments, banks, and companies worldwide.

    Gibney, the Oscar-winning director of Taxi to the Dark Side and documentaries about Enron and Eliot Spitzer, lines up an A-list of experts, observers, cohorts, and adversaries, tracing how Assange's and Manning's worlds collide - virtually, and violently - and how a noble quest for transparency and truth turned into a tale of conspiracy and paranoia.

    Manning, whose court martial is underway now, emerges as the more sympathetic of the film's two principals, while Assange is seen transformed: from a digital-era David battling Goliaths to a MacBook-slinging narcissist charged with sexual assault.

    It's complicated. And it's fascinating.

    Contact Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or, or follow on Twitter @Steven_Rea. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at


    Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
    We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue.
    Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines.

    Comment policy: comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

    Please note that comments are monitored by staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

    Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

    Read 0 comments
    comments powered by Disqus
    Latest Videos:
    Also on
    letter icon Newsletter