"“Undoubtedly an important piece of filmmaking...”"

Documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney has an incredible knack as a director in creating riveting pieces of cinema that tell their stories so fluently and creatively, while always remaining faithful to the core of the premise, as he educates his audience without ever being patronising. The greatest achievement, however, and one that remains the case with his latest feature We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, is that it's scaled masterfully to ensure that it warrants its theatrical release – something that certainly can't be said of many documentary films.

Gibney – having recently portrayed the affecting and controversial set of events surrounding paedophilia in the Catholic Church in Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God – now returns to document the rise of WikiLeaks, detailing the creation of this website that uncovers various government secrets, facilitating the biggest security breach in American history. Focusing in on the lives of both the original creator Julian Assange and the man behind the leaking of information Bradley Manning, we delve into both the positive and harmful repercussions this contentious website has had on all involved. 

Though initially this documentary seeks in depicting the worldwide effect WikiLeaks has had, it soon develops into an intense character study of Assange, as Gibney attempts to get into his mind and understand this mystifying and inscrutable man, particularly when we cover his sex offence charges and how this leader of men and cult-like figure soon met a swift demise, as we witness how he lost both face and fans in equal measure. Whatever comes up, must come down – and Gibney ensure that we cover Assange's meteoric rise and fall entirely impartially, offering an unbiased take on events and always remaining completely down the line, showing both sides to this story; the ethical sensibilities of the website, with the potentially pernicious side that comes with it. Assange is neither glorified nor vilified for his actions.

However that isn't to say that we truly understand this man, and though Gibney turns in a commendable effort, he is merely scratching the surface of Assange's elusive demeanour, as the lack of interview footage with the man himself proves to be somewhat detrimental to the finished product. Though in fairness that isn't for the want of trying, as Assange rebuffed Gibney's offer of an interview, declaring that only a million pounds could tempt him otherwise. Such an act, ultimately, sums up who this man has become.

We Steal Secrets feels more like a dramatic, narrative piece rather than a documentary, a notion enhanced by the suspenseful music used and the implemented footage from famous Hollywood films, to help dramatise and animate a point made. Though playing around with chronological structure, Gibney is a story teller and this succeeds in that respect, somewhere where The Gatekeepers – a recent documentary about national security – failed.

Given the convoluted nature of events, Gibney touches upon each issue with a deserving amount of screen time, helping the viewer to be educated on the matter without running the risk of growing bored. The editing is impressive, and the way we intertwine between the correlating stories concerning both Assange and Mannings is immaculate. This is in no way an elongated news report – which had been an initial concern.

Though undoubtedly an important piece of filmmaking, you can't help but feel that the timing of this documentary isn't quite perfect, as this story is unfinished somewhat, as there is certainly life yet in this ongoing tale of WikiLeaks and its controversial creator. Ultimately this gives the film a similar feel to when you see footballers or musicians releasing autobiographies at the age of 23. Just wait that little bit longer and remain patient, and perhaps your content will be all the more accomplished as a result.