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Documentary Review: 'We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks' -- 3.5 stars

Julian Assange, left, with WikiLeaks staffers

Julian Assange, left, with WikiLeaks staffers Credit: Julian Assange, left, with WikiLeaks staffers

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
3.5 stars
Documentary by Alex Gibney
Opens Friday at the Angelika and Walter Reade Theater

It was only a matter of time before Alex Gibney, our most prolific documentarian, got around to WikiLeaks. Few hot-button issues escape his grasp and only a handful have been as galvanizing as the story of Julian Assange’s website/leak repository, which famously published an enormous volume of classified information related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and more.

Still, Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side”) ran a significant risk in taking on this loaded subject. There’s an easy route to go here, producing an anti-WikiLeaks screed or pro-Assange propaganda. Many filmmakers would have surely gone one way or the other.

Gibney circumvents the concern by rooting the film in the complicated personalities involved. He transforms the WikiLeaks story into a character study, filtering the events we’re all familiar with through the unpacking of Assange and Bradley Manning, the figures at the center of this drama.

Assange, a longtime hacker, is shown to be a deep believer in the freedom of information and a profound egotist with a rigid worldview. Without excusing the conduct, Gibney makes a direct link between Manning’s lifelong isolation and gender confusion with his enormous leak of confidential material.

It’s a fascinating cinematic approach that transforms this familiar story into something rich and new.

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