“Find the terrorist in the Internet haystack.” That is how Edward Snowden’s job is explained to him in the trailer for Snowden. Not so much a hacker, Edward Snowden was a cyber strategist who assisted in the leak and publication of classified NSA documents to the press. With Oliver Stone’s biopic coming out, it’s worth taking a look at some other films about people challenging a larger organization, at the risk of losing it all.
The year was 1992. Gas was just over a dollar a gallon and Dan Ackroyd was working alongside River Phoenix and Robert Redford to obtain a code breaking box. Sneakers, directed by Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams), was an early look into private contractors working in the cyber analytical field. It was also a comedy. The NSA hires fugitive, Martin (Robert Redford), and his team of associates to help secure an encryption breaking box. Eventually, Martin is forced against his old partner, Cosmo (Sir Ben Kingsley), and has to decide if the technology can be trusted with anyone. Watch the trailer here.
THE FIFTH ESTATE
The Fifth Estate covers the founding of WikiLeaks by Daniel Domscheit-Berg and Julian Assange. From Berg’s (Daniel Brühl) perspective, the film follows his first meeting with Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), the noble website they started under the guise of allowing publication of facts without compromising its sources, and the problems that arise once a government source leaks thousands of classified and damning documents. Constantly questioning Assange as a person, Berg must make the decision of whether their cause is truly noble or not. The Fifth Estate is most interesting when it deals with Assange and the world of WikiLeaks, as the narrative is blatantly biased as portraying Berg as the hero. Berg’s narrative is less one of struggle against the government and more one against the man who believes in freedom of speech regardless of the consequences. Watch the trailer here.
The Whistleblower is based on the true story of Kathryn Bolkovac’s work uncovering a sex trafficking ring that was funded by DynCorp International and ignored by the UN in Bosnia. As played by Rachel Weisz, Bolkovac is terminated by Democra Security when she attempts to bring the scandal to light. The film is an interesting look at a figure who not only fights from within, but cannot flee once the heat gets turned up. Watch the trailer here.
THE INTERNET’S OWN BOY
Lastly, we look at the story of “hacktivist,” Aaron Swartz, in the documentary, The Internet’s Own Boy. He dedicated his life towards resisting the Stop Online Piracy Act and keeping the internet free of any government censorship. After he publicly released private academic journals that were published online via JSTOR, Aaron Swartz was charged with eleven counts of violation against the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as other charges that would estimate $1 million in fees and 35 years in prison. Sadly, this story does not have a happy ending, but the documentary chronicles not only his life, but his work crafting what is now, the public domain. Watch the trailer here.