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Review: 'We Are Legion' goes behind the masks

The fascinating documentary offers a history of the secret social protesters.

October 18, 2012|By Robert Abele
  • A scene from "We are Legion."
A scene from "We are Legion." (Handout )

Whether you see them as dangerous techno-pranksters or the new (masked) face of social protest, the Internet collective called Anonymous are undeniably game-changers.

The documentary "We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists" is Brian Knappenberger's sympathetic (as in, mostly unchallenged) peek inside the cyber-disturbance group that in 2008 famously took on Scientology as a first shot across the global bow, hit the websites of PayPal, Visa and Mastercard when they cut off financial lifelines to Wikileaks, and gave communications aid to the Arab Spring.

Though its roots are in the bratty, anything-goes world of trolling and spiteful online mischief via sites like 4Chan, Anonymous — whose members use the Guy Fawkes mask from "V for Vendetta" when in public — emerged from a wakening consciousness that defines much political history: turning against bullying corporate/governmental oppressors by recognizing strength in numbers.

It's a naturally unwieldy movement, Knappenberger is right to acknowledge, one that by its very origins and methodology can't help but be divided between the issue-driven and those motivated by anarchy. But as a tale of digital power-tripping both exhilarating and terrifying, "We Are Legion" stands as a useful 21st century narrative.

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"We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. At Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.

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