I’m finding it difficult to write with any feeling about Laura Poitras‘s Risk, a multi-chaptered doc about Wikileaks founder and secret information publisher Julian Assange. Poitras has certainly delivered an interesting, well-assembled, tightly-edited portrait of a guy who bravely made his bed and will probably never be free from governmental harassment and prosecution as long as he lives. But the doc never catches lightning. I knew before seeing Risk this afternoon that it couldn’t hope to duplicate the impact of Citizenfour, Poitras’s Oscar-winning 2014 doc about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and it doesn’t.
The Assange/Wikileaks saga, however admirable and however much I support and sympathize, has gone a bit stale. It peaked during the big revelation years (’06 to ’11 but especially during the publishing of Chelsea Manning documents). And you have to admit that the story seemed to more or less grind to a halt after Assange took refuge in London’s Ecuadorian embassy in August 2012. He’s still there, of course.
I support what Assange did and stands for but after Alex Gibney‘s We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks, Assange’s own Mediastan and Benedict Cumberbatch playing Assange in 2013’s The Fifth Estate, what else is there to say?
The doc is too well finessed and particular to be boring. I was noting the three hair-color changes and various haircuts Assange adopted over the years, but I guess it says something about me or the doc or both that I’m even mentioning this. Moments of real political rage pop through now and then, but the most memorable chapter is when Lady Gaga drops by the embassy in the fall of 2012 for a five-hour chat and a cell-phone video interview. Whatever works, right?