THE FIFTH ESTATE review by Ronnie Malik – Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Julian Assange

THE FIFTH ESTATE review by Ronnie Malik – Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Julian Assange


Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Mackie, Alicia

Vikander, Carrie van Houten

Rating: C

The 21st century has our entire globe moving at the speed of light with the information technology boom. Internet sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are bombarding us with information faster than we can blink. The technology platform now used in modern day to receive the latest breaking news has changed the world by sometimes bringing people closer together and other times pulling them farther apart. One of the most notorious news-leaking sites to hit cyber-space back in 2006 was the Wikileaks. So it only seemed fitting for director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Gods and Monsters, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 and 2) to grab the opportunity to make The Fifth Estate, a film about the impact the whistle-blowing site had on media, government, and society.

The movie focuses primarily on the relationship between Wikileaks colorful and eccentric founder, Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and his partner Daniel Berg (Daniel Bruhl), the latter being a once wide-eyed admirer that is a technology wizard and co-supporter. Together the two are on a mission to bring forward conspiracies enforced on people by corrupt corporations and governments. Julian is the risk taker willing to do anything to expose the secrets of sneaky unscrupulous power players while Daniel is the voice of reason concerned about the consequences of leaking information that could potentially destroy the lives of individuals actually seeking to do some good for humanity. The film takes us on a journey through time and touches on some of the major stories leaked by Wikileaks. The site exposes death squads in Kenya, fraud in Swiss banks, and U.S. military prison abuse.

Ultimately, the film brings us up to the biggest bombshell the site releases on the internet when U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning supplies Wikileaks with the largest set of classified documents ever to be leaked to the public. Aided by global media partners, Julian pushes forward to release the sensitive information while U.S. state department officials Sara Shaw (Laura Linney) and James Boswell (Stanley Tucci) desperately try to do some damage control.

Cumberbatch does an impressive job as the idiosyncratic control-freak trying to change the world. He gets down all the quirks and mannerisms of the rather narcissistic whistle-blower along with his off-beat-messy charm. Audiences will be left with the question “was Assange a hero or villain?” Bruhl plays the disillusioned partner quite well, and the film reaches its climax once the tension and disagreements between the team players reaches the boiling point. Adding a little more color and flavor to the film are performances by Hollywood veterans Linney and Tucci.

The problem with the movie is that it gets way too complicated, jumps around time zones, and uses a lot of computer jargon that only someone with interest in technology would understand. There are dream sequences and flashbacks that don’t really connect to the storyline and just makes the screenplay more disjointed. What should have been a debate over what is right or wrong and how much information should be shared with the public comes off more as clash between personalities and ego in the film. The Fifth Estate, often confusing and difficult to follow, spends a very long time getting to its point. Meant to be a drama about propaganda and espionage, the film falls short on action and coherency. Ultimately the whole thing just falls flat due to the complexity and slow pacing of the story. One would be better off using all the internet tools available to just spend 15 minutes researching the rise and fall of Wikileaks. A quick read online is all one needs to gain insight into the history of one of the world’s most infamous internet news sites.

THE FIFTH ESTATE opens October 18, 2013

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