Safe and Unsound: Our Review of ‘Risk’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - May 12, 2017
Safe and Unsound: Our Review of ‘Risk’

Risk isn’t a sequel to Citizenfour, but it sure feels like it for several reasons. Laura Poitras follows up her thrilling 2014 documentary about Edward Snowden, gaining unprecedented access to the former CIA contractor, with a thematically and tonally similar film about Julian Assange. And like most sequels, it tries unsuccessfully to repeat the triumphs of the past, failing to find a compelling narrative and letting down in the process.

It’s hard not to compare the two films, even if it’s not entirely fair. After all, far too many Americans conflate the two controversial figures, and Poitras, in assuming a similar tempo and style for Risk, doesn’t help matters.

However, the main problem is the approach. While the Snowden story unfolded into something dramatic and chilling, and Poitras was able to catalog it expertly, there really isn’t any there there with Risk. Firstly, Assange is entirely unlikeable, and yet it seems Poitras is trying to go out of her way to be either objective, or give him the benefit of the doubt. She wants to uncover something that maybe we have all missed.

Secondly, he isn’t exactly reclusive. While Snowden was running from the law and stayed out of sight, Assange has come to be known as a egotist, and a manipulator, and those characteristics are on full display in this film. Of course he wants to be on camera and tell his story.

Even Poitras admits that. She wonders why he has given her access, if it’s just a way to better his image. Her journey  as a filmmaker is interesting, but it’s a meandering, aimless one. The film jumps around from one story to the next, from various major leak dumps to Assange’s sexual assault trials to the fate of Chelsea Manning. There isn’t a particular point or focus, and what’s most, the subject matter is entirely dated for anyone who has paid attention to the news lately.

Despite all that, Poitras is still a talented filmmaker, and if you can stand to listen to Assange, especially as he attacks the character of women, there are interesting insights. Risk is an addendum to current events, not something the leads them. It’s in search for more information, of trying to pin down its subject, and unfortunately, so is the viewer.

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Anthony is a lover of a good story in any form, on any subject. Tirelessly navigating filmdom, he is equal parts an unbridled idealist and stubborn curmudgeon, trying to strike a balance between head and heart when it comes to pop culture. He pens stories about television, music, the environment, lifestyles, and all things noteworthy and peculiar.