Laura Poitras, Academy Award winning director of Citizenfour, returns with her most personal and intimate film to date. Filmed over six years, Risk is a complex and volatile character study that collides with a high stakes election year and its controversial aftermath. Cornered in a tiny building for half a decade, Julian Assange is undeterred even as the legal jeopardy he faces threatens to undermine the organization he leads and fracture the movement he inspired. Capturing this story with unprecedented access, Poitras finds herself caught between the motives and contradictions of Assange and his inner circle. In a new world order where a single keystroke can alter history, Risk is a portrait of power, betrayal, truth, and sacrifice.
Similar to her documentary that followed the infamous Edward Snowden, Poitras takes us inside the head of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. The organization gained recognition worldwide when it published a series of leaks involving the US and their role in the Afghanistan/Iraq war. This info was seen as exploitive to some while others applauded Assange and co for bringing awareness to an issue that has had an affect on the world. Much like Snowden, Assange walks a fine line in which people applaud his heroic discoveries while others make him out to be a villain who has no reason to be involved in the ongoing political issues of today’s society.
Poitras allows the camera to be a spectator to the ongoing chaotic life of Assange. We’re left with a pretty good idea of who he might be as his arrogance gets in the way of him understanding what the repercussions could be for exposing classified information. Throughout the film we follow him and his team while sexual assault allegations loom large. Never fazed, he rolls his eyes and responds in a smug monotonic voice. Already in contention for one of the most comedic moments in film this year is the unintentional cringe inducing interrogation from Lady Gaga who is sent to get answers from Assange. The reluctant Assange makes for clear discomfort and squirm inducing pain from Lady Gaga and everyone watching it.
Coming in at just under 90 minutes, Risk is a compelling character study that shines a spotlight on someone who was once nothing more than a fabled persona. It’s clear that Poitras initial ideas and goals of this film take a backseat as the sexual assault allegations linger and eventually escalate. As the film begins to wrap up it’s addressed that Assange had seen a rough cut of the film and was displeased with Poitras and disappointed with how she portrayed him. As the case with many documentaries that span over the course of numerous years, the original identity of the film may perish as new revelations are discovered. At times uneven with what message Poitras is trying to relay, Risk still has enough intrigue to make it a credible and of the moment watch.