Documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras spent 6 years following Julian Assange as he unleashes huge amounts of classified documents to the world. The focus of Poitras’ film changes as Assange faces charges of sexual assault, after which he flees to the Ecuadorean embassy in London and is granted asylum. Unable to leave or he’ll be arrested, Assange attempts to continue running WikiLeaks while maintaining his innocence.
Risk is certainly not the film that anybody will be expecting it to be, and that includes Poitras. With the drastic turn of events, what would have initially been a look into the life of Assange and his attempt to bring secrets out into the open turns into a film about Assange suddenly striving to protect his own privacy. This actually leads to Risk having a very strange aura around it. Poitras isn’t granted access all the time, which seems odd for a film about a man who has been revealing the secrets of governments. It also seems to leave Poitras at odds with her own opinion of Assange.
Are the allegations to be believed? It could be an attempt to silence Assange, as there are other members of Assange’s circle who have faced the same charges. The problem is that those allegations proved to be true, so it’s hard to decide if this is something launched to stop Assange. Things start to get convoluted rather quickly, and instead of seeing Assange as some sort of heroic figure, he simply comes across as paranoid and pathetic.
If the allegations are true, his career is over, as it should be. If they aren’t true, why does he even bother fleeing to the Ecuadorean embassy? These allegations overshadow anything else that Poitras may have intended with her film. But, it also may give us the most personal look at Assange available. Unfortunately for Assange, that look isn’t very flattering. He’s a man filled with ego, shown best when he tries to speak directly with Hillary Clinton prior to attempt at winning the presidency. That he assumes he could simply call her up and talk without being filtered through any number of people in between seems ludicrous.
Assange is also a master of talking in circles. He says so much without saying anything at all, and by the time he’s answered a question, you’re not sure he’s actually given you any answer at all. Again, for a man who prides himself on bringing secrets to light, he seems to feel that his own privacy is rather important. These contradictions fill Risk, and the end result is as if Assange has just answered a question for you. You’ve seen and heard a lot, but aren’t really sure that you learned anything at all.