A top-secret handbook takes viewers on an undercover journey to TITANPOINTE, the site of a hidden partnership. Narrated by Rami Malek and Michelle Williams, and based on classified NSA ... See full summary »
Filmed over six years, Risk (2016) is a character study that collides with a high stakes election year and its controversial aftermath. Cornered in a tiny building for half a decade, Julian Assange is undeterred even as the legal jeopardy he faces threatens to undermine the organization he leads and fracture the movement he inspired. Capturing this story, director Laura Poitras finds herself caught between the motives and contradictions of Assange and his inner circle.Written by
Real Art Ways
Director Laura Poitras was romantically involved with activist, journalist, computer security researcher and artist Jacob Appelbaum, who at the same time was a subject of her documentary film project about WikiLeaks. She often mentions Appelbaum in her book "Astro Noise" using only the affectionate form 'Jake'. The opening photo in "Astro Noise" shows Poitras stretched out on a daybed in the sunlight and is credited to Appelbaum. See more »
In Risk, Laura Poitras, who in 2013 got called specifically by Edward Snowden to be there to document the moment he decided to release the information on how the government was mass-collecting data and spying on the US public at large, she puts her attention on Julian Assange. She actually started filming years before, around the time when Assange was first dealing with the fall-out of the rape allegations (still going on to this day, or at least the one that hasn't expired - what's going on with that, we don't know by the film's end, one can assume it's still pending). She originally screened a version at Cannes in 2016, but because of the banana-animal-crackers-WTF train that was the election, and Assange's role in (arguably) affecting a great deal of the outcome for voters concerned about the leaked DNC emails, she had to update it to reflect that outcome.
So this promises to be a rather expansive look at this man and his times, and I suppose in a way it is. There are also some gaps; the movie jumps from when Assange gets into the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK via asylum (where, by the way, he has a personal trainer guy to help him, uh, stay in shape while not able to go outside, yes this is seen) to (briefly) a bit about Snowden and how one of Assange's lawyers got involved, and then it goes right to 2016. I wish we could've seen what happened, if only briefly, in those few years. Was nothing of consequence done by Wikileaks in that time? To an outsider, it might appear so, or at least in the shadow of people like Snowden and Manning perhaps Assange didn't have much to do while in exile... until those DNC emails, of course.
At times this is interesting, but it lacks the narrative focus and suspense of Citizenfour. Then again comparing to other Assange movies, or at least one documentary, I think it's not necessarily that I *must* learn something new about the man, but I still consider We Steal Secrets, the Gibney doc from 2013, to have a more comprehensive *story* about this man (not to mention the focus on Manning, who is almost a footnote here). It gets a little better in the third act, after we're done seeing what Assange was doing in those heady years of 2010 to 2012, once it gets into 2016, but that also feels too short and we don't get enough from Assange to see where his head was at when it came to the release of the DNC emails.
And I get what Poitras is trying to do here, and it's admirable that it's not the same thing as that we might get in a talking-heads Gibney approach; we're seeing process unfold as far as how Assange talks to his lawyers and associates; how he gets his message across to a spokesperson when talking about an info dump on Syrian military matters; how the news-people comment. But at the same time I'm not sure if there is an engaging through-line; with Citizenfour, to go back to that again, if you can get a really strong emotion going through your film (like in that one, total intensity and suspense of the moment), you can get by showing those small moments going on when not much seems to be happening. With Risk, it's... Lady Gaga now is going to do a (somewhat) shallow interview with Assange where she's halfway engaged with him and we get to see Assange with one of his people in the, uh, woods and he's paranoid about other people listening in.
And... yeah, it's a series of things, with a more compelling character, Jacob Applebaum, popping up sometimes as the man behind "Tor" and who, most interestingly, has a relationship off-screen with Poitras that ends with him being sexually abusive to one of her friends(?!) Wow, where's that movie? Come to think of it, will there be a third movie about a hacker? Maybe the real piece of work Applebaum - followed by an Avengers like team up with Assange and Snowden? As far as showing the cult-like world that Julian Assange has created for himself goes, the depiction of that is captivating. But there's not enough *there* there, if you get my meaning. I wanted a little more of *some* sense of a side she was taking, even if she wanted to keep ambiguity.
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