Risk

Julian Assange, as you may know, is the founder of WikiLeaks, a website that publishes secret information contributed by anonymous sources in the name of truth. Laura Poitras is the Oscar-winning director of Citizenfour, the documentary about another famous leaker, Edward Snowden. Filmed over a period of 6 years, Risk is Poitras’ documentary about Julian Assange.

Early on in the documentary, WikiLeaks is attempting to contact Hillary Clinton regarding some secret documents that are about to get leaked – not intentionally by them, but because their password got “exposed.” This is the least of their trouble. As MV5BMzIzNzYzMDM0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzA1OTgwMjI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,687,1000_AL_you may know, they go on to publish a document dump leaked by Chelsea Manning, which earns them a criminal investigation by the American government. Shortly afterward, Sweden issues an arrest warrant for Assange over allegations of sexual assault and rape. He denies guilt but is more concerned that he’ll be extradited to the U.S. So, he breaches bail and flees to Ecuador where he’s been living at the embassy ever since

I didn’t really love Citizenfour and I think I like Risk even less. Laura Poitras has a knack for inserting herself into documentaries, and going easy on her subjects. I feel like I didn’t learn much about Julian Assange, though this documentary isn’t much more than a character portrait. He does say some crazy stuff about women that reminds us that though he’s got high and mighty principles when it comes to freedom of information, his morals to do extend to people, or their freedom to say no.

My takeaway from Risk is that if we’re looking to Assange for a saviour, we’re fucked. Dude is not a good guy. His ego and self-righteousness are astounding. Poitras comes off as being cowed in his presence, and fails to temper his own unreliable narration with any counterbalance. It’s uneven, and frustrating in that it lacks any meaningful commentary on more contemporary events. After all, WikiLeaks worked hand in hand with Russia to release the info they hacked which shaped the U.S. presidential election. And Assange has admitted that a Trump win was his preference. So while WikiLeaks pretend to be about ‘freedom of information’ it’s actually about curating that information in false and misleading and one-sided ways, for their own benefit or for others. And while Edward Snowden did what he did at least in part because he believes that every individual’s privacy is something to hold dear, WikiLeaks has destroyed personal privacy, releasing social security numbers, medical history, and credit card numbers of private citizens.

I wish this documentary had the balls to paint this dubious hero as the true villain that he is, but Poitras doesn’t quite commit. The finished work feels compromised. And as usual, I find her work to be without point of view. Risk feels like a bunch of footage, some of it revealing, some of it interesting, some of it randomly and inexplicably featuring Lady Gaga, but it never really comes together. Is there a movie in there somewhere, I wonder? But mostly I don’t care.

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17 thoughts on “Risk

  1. Isey

    Brave review. I always wondered why WikiLeaks only focused on USA leaks, and not Russia and other regimes with brutal human rights records. Fake news?

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    1. Jay Post author

      Assange has an agenda and he’s not even afraid to say it. I’m afraid he ascribes to the “truth is not truth” theory. He’s definitely not above leaking some truths more than others in order to manipulate the public’s perception.

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  2. Liz A.

    Why is it that these people that purport to be about truth and transparency are all for the brutal regimes? And the corrupt? It says a lot about who they are.

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    1. orcaflotta

      Liz, I assume when you’re talking about brutal and corrupt regimes you really mean Russia and China, right. Well, newsflash, Russia is 10 times more democratic than the USA and her NATO minions. And China is so brutal they are killing corruptors and corruptees off mercilessly. Anyway even crooked Assange can only use what the leakers deliver to him. And now let’s be honest, when viewing America’s global politics of the last 100 years, oh boy, there is a lot of leakworthy material. Much more so than in the Eastern Bloc.

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  3. fragglerocking

    “So, he breaches bail and flees to Ecuador where he’s been living at the embassy ever since” for accuracy’s sake, he’s been living in the Ecuador embassy but in London, not Ecuador. Won’t be watching this movie, he’s a horrible man.

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  4. Invisibly Me

    I always think it’s a shame when a film/producer doesn’t push forward and take a risk – which is ironic, given the title. An interesting one though because Assange is, in my mind only maybe, a little like Che Guevara, as he’ll become a symbol for something yet his personal nature and his behaviour, was less than positive despite how he’s been represented over time. If that makes any sense. x

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  5. tubularsock

    “ . . . if we’re looking to Assange for a savior, we’re fucked. Dude is not a good guy. His ego and self-righteousness are astounding.

    Wow, sounds like the correct credentials to become President of the United States!

    Liked by 3 people

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  6. D. Wallace Peach

    Assange has revealed himself as quite an amoral person at best. I suppose Poitras was trying to make a “fair and balanced” portrayal, but some people just don’t deserve it. I’m skipping this one. Thanks for the warning.

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. macalder02

    You have put on the table what some of us really think about this character. There are many unanswered questions regarding his performance. All his revelation is conditioned to personal interests dominated by his immense ego. Too bad they still do not put it in its place. Your story turned out to be a revelation. Good for you.

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  8. Katrina Morrison

    Hi Jay 😊
    Too bad the director’s “no point of view” did not come across as objectivity. The soft approach concerning a guy like this is a wasted opportunity and is unfortunate. The good thing is you wrote another interesting review.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Jay Post author

      Thanks.
      Yeah, I do not think she’s an objective viewer at all. In fact, she admits to having an affair with one of the subjects. Probably not the greatest decision,.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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