DVD: We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks

STUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Alex Gibney
DVD RELEASE DATE: 9/10/2013 | PRICE: DVD $19.98
BONUSES: deleted scenes, testimony by Bradley Manning
SPECS: R | 130 min. | Documentary | widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall


Alex Gibney’s We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks is a cyber-era, conspiracy-flavored documentary about Julian Assange and the impenetrable and untraceable site he set up as a “drop-box” for whistle blowers.

Assange began as one of a group of Melbourne-based hackers who planted a worm in military computer systems around the world, leaving the code WANK (Worms Against Nuclear Killers). His brilliant computer skills enable him to design WikiLeaks and build a worldwide following. After early fame exposing corruption at an Icelandic bank, Assange cemented his rock star status when he connected (virtually) with a lonely and tormented U.S. Army Private named Bradley Manning. Their massive dump of classified military intelligence communications puts Assange on a collision course with an even greater self-promoting player named Barack Obama…

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks movie scene

Julian Assange is at the center of We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks is told with a wealth of interviews, newsreels and home movies, stylishly interwoven with an almost Kieslowskian mastery and peopled with an assortment of Le Carré-esque characters. Overall, the film is surprisingly (for me, anyway) well-balanced. The “idealistic anarchists’ are well-represented by former WikiLeakers James Ball and Daniel Domscheit-Berg, whose commitment to governmental transparency supersedes their loyalty to Assange. On the “pragmatic” side, we hear from Michael Hayden (NSA, CIA), P.J. Schramm (State Dept.) and former “Classification Czar’ Bill Leonard. They emerge not as sinister Machiavells, but as decent men committed to protecting the country. Schramm, in particular, strikes a real-world balance when he compares secrecy to a toxin fighting the cancer of terrorism: We seek to rid the body of cancer without the toxin destroying it.

If there is a tragic figure here, it is Manning. Brilliant but tormented by isolation and sexual conflicts, he dooms himself to reaching out to the reptilian computer security consultant and former hacker Adriam Lamo, blinking with Aspergers and dopey with medication.

And then there’s the “crazy white-haired Aussie” Assange, like some 19th century fabulist exploring cyberspace instead of the source of the Nile; drunk on the power of good deeds and confining himself with his paranoia. (It will be interesting to see actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s (TV’s Sherlock) take on Assange in the upcoming film, The Fifth Estate, opening in theaters next month.)

The great actress Uta Hagen (The Other) was once asked if playing Shakespeare requires “being bigger than life?” She replied, “Try being as big as life.” Indeed!

And don’t miss the selection of deleted scenes!


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About David

David Leopold is an actor, writer and videographer who would take a Sherpa ride up a Tibetan mountain to see an Edwige Feuillère movie.