The first half pulls at many interesting strands, such as how the US and other digital superpowers now rely on acne-blighted whiz-kids to perform the most complex of hacks, yet ultimately these are the same kids who can tear down political institutions with the click of a button. This constant double-edged sword, in which young hackers can swallow whole the hand that feeds them, was a source of great tension throughout the early 2000s. After 9/11, the shift from private data to shared data meant that sensitive information could be accessed by staff with alarmingly low clearance levels.
Still, there are touches of similar intellect; is chaos the price for an uncontrolled and transparent online grid or will it abolish corruption absolutely? Assange isn't exactly depicted with sympathy or admiration but rather as an emblem of the digital age; one man and his laptop taking down whole countries. Our capacity to deify Assange speaks to our love of idols and heroes as much as it does our genuine wish to see all information shared with the public.
Had Gibney tapped into something more esoteric or edifying about WikiLeaks, or even discovered a greater discourse about digital security and hacktivism, this documentary could have occupied the same illustrious domains as Enron and Taxi. Instead, Gibney's We Steal Secrets provides us with a timeline, a curious if not plain investigation into the rise of WikiLeaks and its central players.
This review was originally published on 25 June, 2013 as part of our Edinburgh International Film Festival coverage.