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Wikileaks, sculpted

Alex Gibney’s new documentary takes a huge story and chisels out its essence

Simon Willis | July/August 2013

The documentary-maker Alex Gibney is to a sprawling news story what a sculptor is to a lump of marble. He takes something unwieldy and chisels out its essence. In this film he chips away at Wikileaks and the triumvirate of hacktivists at the centre of the biggest breach of secrecy in history. Drawing deftly on archive footage and exhaustive interviewing, Gibney depicts Julian Assange as a tyro of principle and purpose who became a narcissist and paranoid egomaniac. He also adds surprising context to the Assange sex scandal. Then there’s Adrian Lamo, a young American who became Bradley Manning’s chat-room confessor before turning him in to the authorities. But the film’s most powerful presence is an absence: Manning himself. His story of isolation and confusion is the film’s humanitarian black hole. Gibney marshals a mass of detail into a gripping two hours, exploring our right to know through the fraught lives of those who knew. ~ Simon Willis

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks July 12th