January 3, 2014

Late contender for the worst film of 2013

Wikileaks: We Steal Secrets (Alex Gibney, 2013). Late contender for the worst film of 2013? Here’s why. Alex Gibney is trying an Errol Morris approach, telling a complicated, near-academic story through the foibles and flaws of his characters (basic human interest narrative) except that he can’t pull it off and not just because neither of the two main subjects – hacker guru Julian Assange and army leaker Bradley Manning – are available to him. He’s constructing profiles in their absence but his evidence, in the case of Assange especially, is unbalanced, adding up to ad hominem stuff about cult mentalities and rock star behaviour. The bigger ethical issues about journalism and how it’s practised now go mostly unexamined. But also, Gibney seems to lack the human flair to tell these stories with the humour and compassion that Morris would bring. Everything human seems gossipy, even sleazy. No one’s purported motivations can be trusted in this account – it’s the worst kind of cynicism.