I swear I'm not a bad liberal. I support gay marriage and universal health care—hell, I've donated to the Obama campaign on a regular basis since early 2007. Secrecy, a documentary about the United States government's proclivities toward confidentiality, is the very definition of good old-fashioned liberal informational oat bran: It's good for you and packed with all kinds of healthy factoids. Too bad it's so fucking boring. All kinds of experts give testimony on terrible things the government does, like detain people in Guantánamo Bay or spy on civilians. Just about everyone in Seattle knows these are terrible things. But an hour and a half of wall-to-wall talking heads is way too much to swallow in one sitting.

Peter Galison and Robb Moss try to cut things up a little as the experts drone on about civil liberties: There is some abstract animation involving snakes and ghostly shapes and... more ghostly shapes. There are lots of clips of pieces of paper falling into a void. These visual tricks only distract from the monotonous chatter about law and history and some other stuff that I'm sure I missed.

You wish the filmmakers would realize that there's a perfect, preexisting technology for transmitting this kind of information-dense material; using this technology, interested parties can work through the material at their own speed and go back through parts they maybe didn't initially absorb with maximum efficiency. It's called a book, and there are quite a few good ones—including a recent one titled The Challenge: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and the Fight over Presidential Power—on this subject already. Good liberals are advised to skip the movie and buy the book instead. recommended