Published Sep 23, 2012Since 2006, WikiLeaks has been digging up and releasing top-secret information via the Internet, pissing off governments the world over by airing their dirty laundry.
Spear-headed by Australian native Julian Assange, their mission is to bring news and information to the public by publishing original source material to provide evidence of truth. It is these truths, among other shady dealings, that have landed Assange in hot water, ultimately leaving him holed up in London at the Ecuadorian embassy, granted political asylum, but unable to leave the premises for fear of being arrested.
Very little is known about the man behind the controversy, beyond what has been widely reported by the press, which is something director Robert Connolly intends to change with his biopic, Underground. Connolly focuses on the teenage years of Julian Assange (Alex Williams) while growing up in Melbourne, touching upon his upbringing and how it tied into his subsequent search for truths and freedoms.
Assange made a name for himself under the handle "Mendax" as part of a Melbourne-based hacker group known as "the International Subversives." They maintained a "look, but don't touch" moral code where they never stole or caused damage, merely striving to reach the darkest corners of an organization's system for sheer glory and bragging rights.
Having hacked into various corporate systems via dial-up connections, they took things a step too far when they broke into the U.S. Pentagon's network and were detected, putting the CIA and Melbourne detective Ken Roberts (Anthony LaPaglia) on the hunt.
Beyond the computer-based mischief, Assange's personal life was similarly chaotic, having a mother (Rachel Griffiths) and half-brother (Ben Crundwell) on the run from her ex-husband (Daniel Frederiksen), who's attempting to lure his son back into a cult known as "the Family." Intensifying this hectic lifestyle is the unplanned pregnancy of girlfriend Electra (Laura Wheelwright), which helps draw a narrative parallel between adult responsibilities and youthful hacking whims.
Connolly's film paints a picture of a pre-Internet era, back in the days of dial-up modems, Commodore 64 computers and dot-matrix printers, as well as a time when social engineering was the easiest way to snag someone's network password. The astute feel for the youth culture of the '80s is undeniable, emphasized by an antiquated rock soundtrack that includes music from Midnight Oil.
Because of the fast-paced, engrossing narrative style, this unauthorized biopic manages to hold interest regardless of familiarity with the controversial central protagonist. (Matchbox)