Underground is a Australian telefilm produced for Channel 10 on the early life of Julian Assange (Alex Williams), starting from 1989. It was then that he began hacking into American private mainframes, at first for bragging rites before setting his sites on the US military among the International Subversives. His life is a nomadic existence, constantly on the run from his indoctrinated stepfather, and moving from his activist mother’s house to live with his newly pregnant girlfriend. On the other side of the “Subversives” is detective Ken Roberts (Anthony LaPaglia) who has to adapt to a new criminal element and a then nonpublic technology to find Assange before the Americans do.
This film is deeply frustrating watch. It takes the approach of many biopics – cramming in as much information as possible. The chemistry between Alex Williams and Laura Wheelwright amounts to either “I smile at you” or “This is my argument face.” Among the younger cast members, Callum McAuliffe and Jordan Raskopoulos fair much better by actually having personalities. Williams does have a fantastic moment at the end, shared with Anthony LaPaglia that actually hits at what drove Assange and connects deeply with who the man has become.
Forcing multiple stories together because they all occurred around the same time is what a hardcover biography does – they have 1000 plus pages to tell a story, not two hours or less. If the film focused more on the actual espionage (the best handled scenes) this could have been an exciting addition to TIFF. Unfortunately we were given a TV movie.
Is Underground Essential TIFF Viewing?
No. If this were a televised miniseries, with multiple installments to cover everything it wants to perhaps it would be better served. If the earlier portions of the film didn’t amount to pretty Australians staring off screen or proving how impressively fertile they are (yeah, I’m taking the one sex scene literally – if their personalities are any indication of the dynamic quality of their sexcapades I hope they only did it once) we’d have a more concise story. I spent much of the screening trying to figure out why I was not interested in this picture when the script was kind enough to tell me why: “Maybe I am too normal for you.”
Underground Screening Times
- Saturday September 15 at 6:45pm at the Yonge and Dundas 9
More About This Movie
Underground Production Gallery
- TIFF 2012: the fest so far
- The TFS List: 5 underappreciated TIFF films
- TIFF 2012: Interview with Pablo Berger, director of Blancanieves