Risk (2016) Poster

(I) (2016)

User Reviews

Review this title
13 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
The Risk May Be Worth It For Some
SteveMierzejewski11 June 2017
The reviews for this documentary are all over the place. Reviewers who are firm advocates of WikiLeaks tend to over-exaggerate the film's virtues, while those who find the organization's actions reprehensible tend to hate it. I watched the film as an objective reviewer.

Some have called the film a sleeper and there are parts of the film that live up to that branding. These occur mainly at the beginning of the film when scenes shift quickly and conversations are somewhat baffling and vapid.

Assange emerges as an emotionally remote character who hides his true personality behind his dedication to WikiLeaks. He even states that what he does is more important than who he is. The only scene in which we get a glimpse into his repressed character is when he is interviewed by Lady Gaga, dressed in her Wicked-Witch-of-the West costume. Ms. Gaga, like most celebrities, tries to hide her insecurity behind false bravado and seemingly unfiltered, carefree questions which tell us more about her than Assange. In a clear case of projection, she asks about his relationship to his parents, wherein Assange claimed his father was "abstract".

We do get some glimpses into the life Assange lives within the Ecuadorean Embassy. We learn about his relationships with his team and find out a few ways that the organization keeps itself protected from government intrusion. This may hold some interest for some viewers.

The latter half of the film is more interesting, especially when he talks about the DNC hacking. I only wish this were expanded more as it is more timely. It is at this point in the film that Assange talks about the earth as so interconnected that any action must be considered a global action. It is an interesting an important viewpoint that should be considered. It is not simply "think globally, act locally". It is more that even a small local action may have global implications.

The film leaves many questions unanswered and, as a whole, doesn't flow very well. It could have been better made. There is nothing compelling in it, meaning that a viewer may be tempted to stop watching the film entirely at certain points. There is no hook that makes us want to see how it ends. There are no compelling relationships and some issues seem unresolved that could easily have been. Still, a few scenes are definitely worth seeing.

For those interested in the world of cyber security, political intrigue, and government surveillance, this documentary may be of interest. For the general public, however, it may simply be too dull.
22 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Ballad of a Vain Man
paul2001sw-119 September 2017
The ability of whistle-blowers to leak sensitive, and even secret, information is an essential check on the potential abuse of power by government. But Julain Assange, founder of Wikileaks, a website established to assist such whistle-blowers, is a deeply problematic figure: an egoist who falls out with his own collaborators with amazing frequency; a man who seemed hardly to take accusations of rape seriously; an instinctive anarchist who sometimes seems to be fighting not government tyranny everywhere, but exclusively in America. This documentary was conceived as a friendly venture (in fact, the film-maker quietly reveals she is not exactly a neutral party in the story), but the essential vanity of Assange is clearly on display. Ultimately, it's hard to avoid concluding that whatever good Wikileaks might have done has been fatally compromised by the man at its core.
15 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
It's no Citizenfour...that I can tell you
asc859 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
While my political perspective is much different from Laura Poitras, the director, I was able to appreciate "Citizenfour" and could see why it received such acclaim.

Not so with this one. Just a sloppy, haphazard effort. Supposedly this was filmed over a 6 year period, but it would have been nice if there were some markers along the way telling us which year that which things were happening. If it's difficult to judge the years now, imagine 10- 20 years from now, when this is less of a "hot topic" issue.

Although Poitras is clearly on the side of what Wikileaks does, she still makes Assange come off as a real sexist jerk. And his #1 assistant, Sarah Harrison, comes off as a Stepford Wife that has apparently drunk gallons and gallons of Kool-Aid.

Obviously, it is hard to ignore the politics of a film like this when reviewing it. If you agree with the politics, you'll probably be more supportive of this film. If you don't agree with what Wikileaks is doing, you'll view Assange and company as smug, self-important hypocrites.

After I saw the film, I was reading up about how this film was re-cut after being shown at Cannes, where Poitras had a change of heart on how she had previously shown Assange, and decided to now show his more sexist side. Similar to the change in perspective of Jacob Applebaum, whom Poitras was apparently sleeping with during a portion of this six year period, and then he was later accused of sexual misconduct. A film about all of that would probably have been a more interesting story than what we saw in the film.
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
93 min. of footage from 6 years of filming leaves us wanting more
paul-allaer11 August 2017
"Risk" (2017 re-release; 93 min.) is a documentary about Julian Assange by critically acclaimed (and Oscar-winning) writer-producer-director Laura Poitras. With basically unfettered access to Assange and his entourage, Poitras initially thought she's be making a documentary that focused heavily on the Wikileaks (and certainly there is some of that), but by an unexpected turn of events (two women in Sweden alleging assault and/or rape by Assange), everything changes... To tell you more of how it plays out would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: the stellar track record of Laura Poitras speaks for itself. She knows how to make a compelling documentary. This movie is a logical follow-up for her Oscar-winning "CitizenFour". That said, it is impossible to discuss "Risk" without providing the full context as to its life. "Risk" originally premiered at the 2016 Canned Film Festival (yes, over a year ago) to much controversy, upon which Poitras withdrew the movie and reworked it, and of course in the meantime events kept happening. After a year's worth of tinkering, the movie was recently re-released on SHO. I haven't see the 2016 version so I cannot really comment how the two versions compare, but I've read the 2016 movie was significantly different (and far less critical of Assange). The movie now concludes with Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey (in May, a mere 3 months ago). Keeping in mind that the movie was filmed over a 6 year period, I wish it'd run longer than just 93 min. Yes, we get all of 93 min. from 6 years of filming. So much is happening in the movie and so fast, it's hard to keep up at times. But it never stops being compelling viewing (check the surprisingly cramped living quarters at the Embassy of Ecuador in London).

Last but certainly not least, I've read some of the so-called "reviews" posted here by Wikileaks fans, trashing "Risk" for the mere fact that they feel it is too critical of Assange. These people are delusional. Not to mention that what they posted is not a movie review but simply putting forth a political position, disregarding any and all artistic merits that the documentary has AS A MOVIE (even with shortcomings and all). I am neither "for" or "against" Assange or Wikileaks. I am a movie buff who loves well-made and compelling documentaries, even if they have shortcomings. "Risk" qualifies on all these points. I encourage you to check it out if you have the chance, and draw your own conclusion.
14 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Gordon-119 December 2017
This film tells the first hand story of Julian Assange, and his life after launching the leaks website.

It is very interesting to see what goes on around Assange up close, as there is probably very little opportunity to do so. The opening of the film is strong, as the characters try to get in touch with senior government officials. However, the film goes downhill quickly, mostly because there is little narrative to what is shown on the screen. For example, there is a scene where Julian puts a device on the window sill, and I have no idea what is going on. The scene where he gets a haircut, and doing boxing can be enhanced by a narration that he could not leave the embassy. To me, the documentary is so personal to the filmmakers, that they forgot that viewers are not in the middle of it. Viewers can't follow the scenes as they could.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Scattershot Indecipherable Mess...Feels Like the Thing Got Out of Hand
LeonLouisRicci16 August 2017
Documentary Filmmaker Laura Poitras ("Citizenfour" (2014) follows up that Oscar Winner with this "Julian Assange", "Wikileaks" Exploration and it is a Mess. Suffering from a Number of Outside Influences the Film became even More Messy after its Initial Release. It was pulled and Re-Edited and Re-Released.

The Movie is Confusing, Scattered, Lacks Focus and can cause Headaches trying to Follow the Themes or the Intent. It Plays like a Crazy Women's Quilt. Even more so if You are Unfamiliar with the Players or the Subjects Presented in a Haze of Haphazard History. Keeping Things Straight as the Film Unfolds is a Daunting Task.

It Hops and Flops all over the place. Locations and Points of Interest Covered are so Random it Feels like a Treasure Hunt and the "X" is Never Found. It moves here and there and Never Settles. Nothing is very Clear. Ambiguity Reigns, and those Seeking Insight or Truth about any of this will be Disappointed.

The Soap Opera Elements Overtake the Political and the Historical and it almost Devolves into a "People Magazine" Kind of Thing. Surely the Intentions were anything but. But in the End that's what it Feels Like. The Movie got Spoiled somewhere, sometime along the way and the Restoration to Something Palatable was Unsuccessful.
14 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Risk is a Provocative, Personal, and Candid Look at WikiLeaks and its Creator.
I watched the newest cut of Risk as of 5/7/17 with the director in attendance.

I went into Risk blind, as in, I had no prior knowledge of the film prior to seeing it. I was already a big fan personally Poitras' previous Oscar-winning documentary CITEZENFOUR, so I was expecting to get something similar in that sense, but what I got was something even more provocative. The viewer throughout the film is creating this image of Assange as more and more things come into light. At the same time, we get an in-depth look into the inner operations and daily struggle of one of the most famous/infamous, depending who you're asking, online warehouse of classified documents, WikiLeaks. This clash of truth, privacy, and freedom is experienced as the governments of the world begin question each others practices while also witnessing the personal struggle and persecution of the whistle-blowing community. All that, as told through the perspective of a documentary film-maker who puts so much at risk personally to capture the truth of everything that happens in this community that I personally have no extensive knowledge on. About Assange, the viewer is really left to observe this candid portrayal of the man behind the whole operation. A portrayal that even the subject doesn't agree with. That, along with the fact that we are living immediate consequences of the the events portrayed in the film, is what makes it so raw and so relevant to what we're living through right now.
20 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Manipulative & morally troubling art film that shouldn't be confused with accurate journalism
John-564-34244923 May 2017
"Risk" is interesting as a work of art, because Laura Poitras has a cinematic style that uses the suggestive power of images and sounds. The eerie avant garde music by newcomer Jeremy Flower dominates the soundtrack like in a thriller. It's a documentary that tries to be 'exciting' and 'complex', which is good for every work of art.

But "Risk" wants to be journalism, too. It's about real people with real problems. It's more than entertainment. My biggest problem with the film is, that it simply doesn't deliver here, which is sad, because Laura Poitras had a unique access and probably has 200 hours of footage at home.

The WikiLeaks lawyers wrote a long complaint about this film and they are right, I think.


Why do we never see an interview with Sarah Harrison or the other women at the center of WikiLeaks ? What about Gavin MacFadyen, Vaughan Smith or other key people?

By marginalizing the WikiLeaks women, and excluding all the other contributors, Poitras creates the impression, that Julian Assange is as dominant as a cult leader. The gender relations are characterized - in a non-verbal way - as unequal and the women as nearly submissive, always working like bees to 'please' their sinister 'master' Julian. The portrait that Laura Poitras paints of WikiLeaks follows the old stereotype, that it's an ideological sect dominated by one power-hungry man, who knows no limits.

I'm sure, that the women, staff & contributors would have told a very different story of why they do what they do, but Laura Poitras only asks Assange a few questions - and nobody else. This is highly manipulative.


Why did Laura Poitras remove the whole section of WikiLeaks' triumph at the United Nations, where top Human Rights lawyers decided that Assange's treatment was unlawful? By not showing this surprising victory - Sweden dropped the whole investigation now - Julian Assange appears much more ambiguous. Poitras clearly wants to create as much ambiguity concerning WikiLeaks as possible, which is O.K. for art, but not for journalism.

It's the same with Jacob Appelbaum, who comes across like a 'guilty' person, even if the facts don't really support the view of Laura Poitras: While it's true, that there were allegations against him, most of them have been refuted by journalists and no official complaints exist. But Poitras still included them, because she has personal reasons: In the V.O. she says that Appelbaum "was abusive to someone close to me", which seems to be some kind of 'proof' for her. But we don't get a name or any information what kind of "abuse" Appelbaum committed, only the vague impression that he's a bad, bad guy. What did he do? Did he kick Laura's dog? Or did he tease her cat?

Sorry, but that's not journalism or responsible filmmaking, because neither Mr. Appelbaum nor the audience can verify or refute an empty statement like that. It's simply a manipulation of the audience.


Laura Poitras asks the audience to always trust her, because 'Laura knows', but this is childish.

Why should we trust Laura Poitras to always tell the truth - if she even has access to it - when she sometimes doesn't even get small facts correct and manipulates reality for her storytelling like it pleases her?

A beautiful example for the problem of manipulation-by-editing is a short sequence in a Berlin S-Bahn near the end, where we see Sarah Harrison. Everybody who knows Berlin can see, that the editing creates an impossible continuity: First we see the station 'Hackescher Markt', then we hear a voice announcing the station 'Berlin Hauptbahnhof' and at last we see her driving by the station 'Alexanderplatz'. The editing creates a nonsensical and physically impossible trip in this sequence, but only people who know Berlin will even see this.

If Laura Poitras doesn't care about these details - that she obviously knew were wrong, since she lived in Berlin - then how much did she care about accuracy in other parts of her movie, where she asks us to simply 'trust' her ?

Poitras also mentions in one sentence - like it doesn't matter - that Appelbaum used to be her boyfriend in 2014. That's all the info we get, despite the big credibility problems this creates for an observational documentary. To have sex with your subjects while you pretend to create an objective 'journalistic film' is ridiculous. Does Appelbaum come across as 'guilty' in her film, because Ms. Poitras wanted to take revenge on Appelbaum, who left her for a younger woman?


The life of Jacob Appelbaum is more or less destroyed after this film, but Laura Poitras and her distributor try now very hard to win another Academy Award for this 'achievement' - this is obscene.

She needs to simply present more credible evidence before she represents people as bad guys in her 'thrillers', otherwise it becomes unethical and morally troubling filmmaking.

It certainly didn't made me appreciate Laura Poitras as a journalist, because she does care more for her art & drama than accurate & balanced journalism.


I'm all for trying new ways of reporting on real-life stories: Laura Poitras' "Field of Vision" project wanted to explore 'visual journalism' and it sounded exciting to me.

But "Risk" is regressive in it's ignorant approach and does a disservice to the credibility of her 'visual journalism' project and the documentary form itself.

More visual reporting and data visualization in journalism is good, but it has to be accurate, balanced, fair and based on legit methods & credible sources otherwise it becomes a work of art & fiction, that can't claim any journalistic value.

Poitras' "Risk" definitely crossed the line.
28 out of 56 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Take a risk--see an informative and entertaining doc.
jdesando9 May 2017
"We don't have a problem, you have a problem." Julian Assange

As the ever-cool Assange announces to Hillary's campaign that leaks are forthcoming, he is slightly wrong: No one in the WikiLeaks world, on either side, is without problems. For Assange, four years of asylum-imprisonment in the London Ecuador embassy could not be easy; for Hillary, leaked messages and her private use of a server are only the beginnings of her problems.

It's all about info and who commands it—Laura Poitras's doc, Risk, lets us in to the private world of the Australian journalist and programmer Assange, founder of WikiLeaks in 2006, enabler of Robert Snowden, and purveyor of thousands of pages of secret government documents.

Poitras does a remarkable job keeping above the political sides, even admitting at one point that she does not trust Assange. She makes her presence known from voice over, yet rarely pushes an agenda other than entertaining and enlightening her audience.

Poitras gives the audience as much insight as they could hope for with a subject as opaque as might be expected: "What does it matter how I feel?" (Assange) Brief moments with Lady Gaga and Daniel Ellsberg provide humorous respite from the monotony of Assange's imprisonment.

Assange's answer as to why he does WikiLeaks is as evasive as his answers to most questions. Deflecting accusations of sexual harassment is pure Assange: He gently accuses hardcore feminists of a conspiracy against him. Sweden still wants to interview him about the charges.

Whereas in Citizenfour, Poitras let Snowden come off as a hero, she does not cut the low-key Risk in a way to make Assange saintly: "The risk of inaction is extremely high," he says in a reflection of his activist mentality and the title of the film.

He is smooth and careful, partly right and partly wrong, just like this documentary.
14 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
the game of a certain "Garden" world domination
Quinoa198416 May 2017
In Risk, Laura Poitras, who in 2013 got called specifically by Edward Snowden to be there to document the moment he decided to release the information on how the government was mass-collecting data and spying on the US public at large, she puts her attention on Julian Assange. She actually started filming years before, around the time when Assange was first dealing with the fall-out of the rape allegations (still going on to this day, or at least the one that hasn't expired - what's going on with that, we don't know by the film's end, one can assume it's still pending). She originally screened a version at Cannes in 2016, but because of the banana-animal-crackers-WTF train that was the election, and Assange's role in (arguably) affecting a great deal of the outcome for voters concerned about the leaked DNC emails, she had to update it to reflect that outcome.

So this promises to be a rather expansive look at this man and his times, and I suppose in a way it is. There are also some gaps; the movie jumps from when Assange gets into the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK via asylum (where, by the way, he has a personal trainer guy to help him, uh, stay in shape while not able to go outside, yes this is seen) to (briefly) a bit about Snowden and how one of Assange's lawyers got involved, and then it goes right to 2016. I wish we could've seen what happened, if only briefly, in those few years. Was nothing of consequence done by Wikileaks in that time? To an outsider, it might appear so, or at least in the shadow of people like Snowden and Manning perhaps Assange didn't have much to do while in exile... until those DNC emails, of course.

At times this is interesting, but it lacks the narrative focus and suspense of Citizenfour. Then again comparing to other Assange movies, or at least one documentary, I think it's not necessarily that I *must* learn something new about the man, but I still consider We Steal Secrets, the Gibney doc from 2013, to have a more comprehensive *story* about this man (not to mention the focus on Manning, who is almost a footnote here). It gets a little better in the third act, after we're done seeing what Assange was doing in those heady years of 2010 to 2012, once it gets into 2016, but that also feels too short and we don't get enough from Assange to see where his head was at when it came to the release of the DNC emails.

And I get what Poitras is trying to do here, and it's admirable that it's not the same thing as that we might get in a talking-heads Gibney approach; we're seeing process unfold as far as how Assange talks to his lawyers and associates; how he gets his message across to a spokesperson when talking about an info dump on Syrian military matters; how the news-people comment. But at the same time I'm not sure if there is an engaging through-line; with Citizenfour, to go back to that again, if you can get a really strong emotion going through your film (like in that one, total intensity and suspense of the moment), you can get by showing those small moments going on when not much seems to be happening. With Risk, it's... Lady Gaga now is going to do a (somewhat) shallow interview with Assange where she's halfway engaged with him and we get to see Assange with one of his people in the, uh, woods and he's paranoid about other people listening in.

And... yeah, it's a series of things, with a more compelling character, Jacob Applebaum, popping up sometimes as the man behind "Tor" and who, most interestingly, has a relationship off-screen with Poitras that ends with him being sexually abusive to one of her friends(?!) Wow, where's that movie? Come to think of it, will there be a third movie about a hacker? Maybe the real piece of work Applebaum - followed by an Avengers like team up with Assange and Snowden? As far as showing the cult-like world that Julian Assange has created for himself goes, the depiction of that is captivating. But there's not enough *there* there, if you get my meaning. I wanted a little more of *some* sense of a side she was taking, even if she wanted to keep ambiguity.
9 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Must-see-film for those who want to know more than TV news dares reveal.
relate-4783515 May 2017
Preferring to find a movie on what the theme is and liking more imported foreign films and documentaries than those made in prolific USA, here the main person and the well-known 'Wikileaks' was an instant  click,  so had to go and see & learn more than mass media informs us about Julian Assange.  And this writer was totally fascinated and involved throughout entire film. 

While Poitras' personal inserted comments came in  - but voiced more quietly,volume down-  we  had to attended  more to hear and absorb these inserts.  We needed to hear these  added, helpful information bits to the scenes portrayed. 

Assange was mostly seen in close-ups, so his every impartially-held facial expression could still not be easily read.  But some  good glimpses of his attitude were revealed anyhow. He hid some when filmed, even while talking lots, and he sometimes droned on ....so  when his words were mumbled / hummed Assange was  heard less. So while he was carefully conveying some info in his not-subtle ways, at times he left this writer confused, as when he refused to give direct answers to clear questions asked in film.

His female associates were not identified if in  what kind of 'relationship'  to Julian, or what their expertise was.... other than being always there, supportive, helping him groom or  make escapes. That women were always in the " rescuer" roles left the impression that they may be  & still are attracted to Julian as "hero", and  thus to do the usual 'woman's work' only.  As  only assistants ?

Their other values, whatever they are, were not clarified nor appreciated either. Julian's mother, also included in such roles,  was seen as only-adjunct helper. Can this be so ? 

But other scenes showed Julian more actually responding to his circumstances -which is mostly well known & displayed in ordinary TV news clips.

His complaints - while living well - and while limited to living in only 1 fancy embassy- bldg seemed petulant and childish, as he refused to admit  responsibility to eliciting the  'unexpected unwanted consequences' to his work .  His own actions  affected many political people, who still want to censor and punish any 'whistle-blowers', including but not just Assange.

Wikileaks has emerged as a very influential media platform source and  as a threat to those who prefer their secrets kept away from the many people the actions do affect, kill, and distort . Many lives may have been/ are still changed from their exposures, as noted even in the most recent / now current events. 

To  learn more about the main man, tho not the only 1, who still holds dominance on the organization is very relevant and important to us all = the viewers and citizens of these media-blitzed and news-censored worlds. Tho film was a bit long, but still held the viewers' full attention,no one walked out.

This is a must-see film to those who want to better understand the man who  helps  still now reveal" what is happening " behind many locked 'confidential' doors/ documents &emails.  Those are, perhaps, more real than what is exposed  as governments' workings elsewhere.  " Risk" is not a risk but a must-also-see-this-film.... for anyone watching daily propagandized & commercialized  & censored news anywhere. 
10 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
kosmasp28 April 2019
Sometimes timing is everything - so while this seems an apt time to watch a documentary about Assange (with him being arrested and all), the movie itself suffers from that. Now I hear you saying, they are not at fault, which is true. You should not "punish" the filmmakers for this weird twist of events.

But you cannot let this just slide and not even mention it. Also it is tough to get a grasp of the whole situation. The documentary struggles with Assange and him not being something the viewer can really understand. Which is evident when you realize that even Assange isn't "happy" with the outcome. Now that alone would be a badge of honor for other documentaries, but it would have been nice to know more, to get more feedback from Assange himself. Towards the end there is almost something there in an interview ... but the viewer is left again to think it through and make up their own mind. Not a bad documentary by a long shot and some will love this more than others, but there is so much more here and we only scratched the surface - kudos to an amazing beginning by the way, which sucks you all the way in - unfortunately this doesn't hold up for the whole thing
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Makes you feel like you're there
Leofwine_draca18 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Like him or loathe him, RISK is an engaging little documentary following the tribulations of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange during the most tumultuous moments of his life. The film provides a first-hand account of what it's like to be caught up in an international hacking scandal with far-reaching consequences for those involved. Anyone interested in the modern world and in particular politics, security, and the Internet can't fail to be entranced by this material, and I think the most interesting part of it is that Assange himself isn't a sympathetic figure at all, although the documentary is very good.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed