Underground: The Julian Assange Story (2012)

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Underground: The Julian Assange Story is a biographical film based on the early years of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange as he rises in the ranks of a budding hacker to infiltrate major military computer databases and wreak havoc on nuclear missile test launches. It also stars Rachel Griffits (Muriel’s Wedding) and Anthony LaPaglia as an investigator who works day and night to bust Assange, all the while exhibiting some underlying fascination and perhaps even admiration for the kid.

When he was in high school, Assange would help his mom with her anti-nuke protests. At one point he becomes angry with her saying that her efforts are in vain, that no one sees what she does. There were maybe 20 people at the rally that day and Assange is frustrated at their inability to reach more people. This back-story helps to explain why Assange might be so driven to expose governments for their covert activities. The end of the film makes a particularly strong statement about this.

Being a hacker, Assange was able to access documents and learn about horrible things governments were doing. He seems fond of focusing on the US government, his mom was as well. The film did not show Assange to be  particularly anti-American, however, just a kid from Australia who had a passion for IT and a seemingly genius ability to hack into just about anywhere.

Being that the film pre-dates Wikileaks, its main focus is on his high school and home life, showing him as the son of a single mom, who has a little brother in elementary school and a girlfriend with whom he has a child at a fairly young age. At first his girlfriend is fascinated by his world but she eventually grows tired of playing second to his true passion, which is of course hacking.

A few late night missions to break into offices or dumpsters to steal stuff help spice up an otherwise pretty normal childhood for Assange, as well as a creepy ex-stepdad who’s a member of some cult called “The Family” who keeps showing up threatening to take Julian’s little brother.

So what exactly is Wikileaks? Although we may hear about Wikileaks from time to time as a source in news media, there really isn’t too much out there about the organization or Assange (unless it’s bad) and it’s obvious why that is.  This is who they say they are….

“WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit media organization. Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists (our electronic drop box). One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth.”

Origin stories are fun mainly because you are able to see how and why someone became the thing they are today. Wikileaks is definitely one of the shakers of today, because they are one of the few organizations who fight for the rights of people, particularly the right to privacy, which the group Anonymous has been making noise about also.

According to Wikileaks: “Publishing improves transparency, and this transparency creates a better society for all people. Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organizations. A healthy, vibrant and inquisitive journalistic media plays a vital role in achieving these goals. We are part of that media.”

Because Assange is so adept at covering his tracks over the internet by encrypting his activities (and the film deals with this also), perhaps his two biggest targets – the US and British governments, have been trying but failing to prosecute him for his publishing practices for some time. Recent rape charges have definitely hindered Assange in his personal life, who is now holed up in an Ecuadorian embassy insisting on his innocence.

underground630 Underground: The Julian Assange Story (2012)

Some are saying that facing his accusers would prove his innocence. If you’re interested in how the Wikileaks founder came to be, you can catch Underground streaming on Netflix now.

Rating: B-

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