has a slightly abandoned feel, a distant older sibling upstaged by a golden
child. There’s also the fact that it’s been restructured, rethought and
practically remade. The version of Risk that
was shown at Cannes last year was far more flattering portrait of Assange and
WikiLeaks, even if it didn’t shy away from the obvious flaws. The version of Risk heading to cinemas this week,
however, focuses instead on the way that WikiLeaks – particularly Assange, and
hacker Jacob Appelbaum (who Poitras had a relationship with) – are implicated
in multiple cases of sexual assault.
It’s been said that this change of tone and approach stems
from Wikileaks’ involvement in the US election, when the organisation leaked
Democrat emails to the delight of Russia (if not with Russia’s collusion). The
implication, especially towards the end of Risk,
is that it’s fine to expose the US establishment – but not if the result is
In any case, Risk is
no longer heralding the worthy efforts of Wikileaks in spite of its frontman.
It’s a character assassination. Well, assassination is too strong. Assange’s
character gets a bit of a drubbing at most, and it’s a drubbing limited as much
by the limits of Assange’s character as by Poitras’ mixed feelings about it. He
doesn’t make for the world’s most compelling anti-hero, despite Risk’s intimate access.
Whether or not they are excusable, there’s nothing
particularly interesting about Assange’s flaws. His paranoia is more or less
excusable. His belief in a radical feminist conspiracy against him is toxic,
but also half-hearted. He’s preening and vain – there’s a funny scene where his
helpmeets all cut his hair at the same time while he watches cartoons – but
then he does have the whole world’s attention. And even though his application
of his ideals is questionable, there’s no doubting the strength (and almost
innocence) of his conviction that transparency is best.
Perhaps most damningly, when Lady Gaga comes to interview him
in the Ecuadorian embassy, Assange doesn’t revel in the bizarreness of the
Elvis-meeting-Nixon moment or cleverly exploit her sympathy: he droningly lists
all the organisations that are hunting him as the ‘Born This Way’ singer sags
in her chair.
As the nexus of sexual politics and international espionage, Assange is fascinating. But he’s mostly fascinating as an idea.
|What||Risk film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
30 Jun 17 – 30 Aug 17, Times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|