Latest Movie News Headlines

Review: The Fifth Estate

Oct. 17, 2013by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: The story of Wiki-Leaks, from it's growth under founder/editor-in-chief Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl) to it's eventual publication of a massive amount of classified data leaked by soldier Bradley Manning.

REVIEW: The highest praise I can give Bill Condon's THE FIFTH ESTATE is that it takes an exceedingly complicated story- the Wiki-Leaks saga- and boils it down into a compact two hour movie that's consistently entertaining and easy-to-follow. However, buzz that it might be Oscar-worthy seems like a bit of a stretch compared to some of the truly exceptional films that are playing TIFF this year. In comparison, THE FIFTH ESTATE can't help but fall a little short.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about THE FIFTH ESTATE is that by the time the end credits roll, it's main character, Julian Assange, is as much of an enigma as he was when the film started. This is not for lack of trying, as Benedict Cumberbatch bears an uncanny likeness to the man, and brilliantly captures the mannerisms he's displayed in interviews. Assange's past and personality is only revealed in sparingly parcelled out fragments. There's nothing much on the sexual-assault charges, or even his past, although his youth as a member of the Australian cult The Family is briefly explained. It feels like Condon's movie has made a misstep by making Domscheit-Berg the main character, as he's so naive compared to Assange, he can't help but feel like a bit of a waste of the film's focus. Cumberbatch is so good in the flamboyant part that Bruhl, in a far more conventional part, comes off as bland.

As it is, THE FIFTH ESTATE is very much a conventional thriller, although with the facts of the case being what they are, it can't help but be incredibly compelling. The movie takes a mostly unbiased approach, acknowledging both the site's worthiness and recklessness, with their search for truth often having some collateral damage of it's own, with that being emphasized by a subplot featuring Alexander Siddig as a U.S asset who risks exposure due to their expos.

Condon keeps the film moving at a relentless, techno-thriller pace, but again, he manages to prevent it from ever being too confusing or overwhelming. Condon's only real missteps here are stylistic, with too many scenes that try to make typing in chat-rooms exciting cinematically, with the results seeming like something left over from a nineties hacker thriller like HACKERS or THE NET. Superimposing typed messages on faces, and other tricks can't help but feel tacky. The same goes for Condon's frequent use of heavy-handed visual motifs, like the early days of Wiki-Leaks being depicted as an office full of hundreds of Assange's. These cutaways may be interesting visually, but again, feel more than a little contrived and unnecessary (I think less is more visually in movies like this).

Story-wise though, it's mighty gripping, especially given the fact that it's all true. As someone who trained as a journalist back in the first half of the aughts, and watched it utterly transform in just a few years into an all-new kind of industry, it raises a lot of interesting questions about the ethical responsibilities of these new citizen journalists.

I'm still convinced that there's a great straight-ahead Julian Assange biopic to be made, as he's one of the more fascinating and enigmatic figures of the last couple of years. However, if you want to get a good, entertaining rundown of Wiki-Leaks and the lasting effect it's had on the world (and Assange is still at it), THE FIFTH ESTATE is intriguing and refreshingly user-friendly. It's not definitive, nor is it THE SOCIAL NETWORK for Wiki-Leaks, but it's good in it's own right.

Extra Tidbit: Note: This review originally ran as part of JoBlo.com's TIFF 2013 coverage.
Source: JoBlo.com

MORE FUN FROM AROUND THE WEB

Strikeback
Not registered? Sign-up!
Or

3:54PM on 10/17/2013
Don't really agree with your review. I mean, most of your critiques of the movie are based around not exploring the history of Assange. But the movie was never touted as being a Julian Assange biopic. The movie was supposed to be about the formation of WikiLeaks and it's effect on the world. I fail to see how going into great details about Assange's dealings with a cult or sexual assault charges add any depth to that story? Seems like pointless exposition.

I really have no need to see
Don't really agree with your review. I mean, most of your critiques of the movie are based around not exploring the history of Assange. But the movie was never touted as being a Julian Assange biopic. The movie was supposed to be about the formation of WikiLeaks and it's effect on the world. I fail to see how going into great details about Assange's dealings with a cult or sexual assault charges add any depth to that story? Seems like pointless exposition.

I really have no need to see this movie as the story is so fresh that I doubt this movie provides any insights not already convered in the media. But I don't think it's fair to critique a movie about not including enough biography of a man, when the movie was about the company he started. By that standard, the same could be said for Social Network, why didn't Sorkin go into any detail about why Zuckerberg was so eager to become popular, what was his childhood like that caused him to have such a harsh yet determined personality? The answer is because it adds no value to the story.

So instead of deciding whether or not the movie is a good biopic of Assange, please let us know if the movie is a good story about the creation of WikiLeaks.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
2:44PM on 10/17/2013
I'll be honest, I hated it. Most of it is down to lazy filmmaking, treating technology as if this was the mid-90's, AWFUL scriptwriting and a just a general lack of attention to detail. But what really demotes this in my books is how it so childishly tackles one of the most important issues of our time. I have no allegieance to Julian Assange what-so-ever but even a casual glance would be enough to tell you that he's a more complicated figure, representing a hugely complex movement, than the
I'll be honest, I hated it. Most of it is down to lazy filmmaking, treating technology as if this was the mid-90's, AWFUL scriptwriting and a just a general lack of attention to detail. But what really demotes this in my books is how it so childishly tackles one of the most important issues of our time. I have no allegieance to Julian Assange what-so-ever but even a casual glance would be enough to tell you that he's a more complicated figure, representing a hugely complex movement, than the almost super-villain like character they make him out to be. That isn't to say that the man is a saint, or even not a total ego-maniac, but either Julain Assange is The Greatest Criminal Mastermind The World Has Ever Seen! Or this film is exaggerating quite a bit. One opinion I over-heard really stuck with me: This is a film that essentially questions, and discredits, Julian Assange as a reliable or trust-worthy source of information (which is all well and fine) but that whole concept in the film hinges upon us, instead, trusting the word of former Wiki-leaks member Daniel Domscheit-Berg and while we're given a lot of solid reasons to question Assange we're given absolutely no reason to believe or trust Domscheit-Berg, the hero of the film. It feebly tries to acknowledge this in the closing credits but this is a hatchet job, pure and simple. It's the dumbing down of a much more vast and complicated story. I don't want a positive movie about Assange, I just want one I could call balanced and reasoned. I think the gravity of the subject matter deserves that.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
9:18AM on 10/17/2013
I saw an advance screening of this film and, although it had some issues, I really liked it. Cumberbatch is brilliant as usual. I'll post my review.
I saw an advance screening of this film and, although it had some issues, I really liked it. Cumberbatch is brilliant as usual. I'll post my review.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
11:34AM on 09/06/2013

:D

Glad to hear it's at least good. I hope I love it a little more than this review, but I'll temper my expectations just a tad.

Is the score anything like in the trailer? I love that song in the trailer so much! Is it a hint at what's to come in the full film?

Also, does the film show the real leaked video? Or is it obscured like in the trailer?
Glad to hear it's at least good. I hope I love it a little more than this review, but I'll temper my expectations just a tad.

Is the score anything like in the trailer? I love that song in the trailer so much! Is it a hint at what's to come in the full film?

Also, does the film show the real leaked video? Or is it obscured like in the trailer?
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
2:32AM on 09/06/2013
I'm looking forward to it because Cumberbatch is utterly brilliant in everything he's in, but the part about the typing scenes looking like leftovers from Hackers or The Net made me cringe. I think with a film like this, it's the filmmaker's responsibility to neither glorify nor vilify Assange yet make something compelling of it.
I'm looking forward to it because Cumberbatch is utterly brilliant in everything he's in, but the part about the typing scenes looking like leftovers from Hackers or The Net made me cringe. I think with a film like this, it's the filmmaker's responsibility to neither glorify nor vilify Assange yet make something compelling of it.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
View All Comments

Latest Movie News Headlines


Top
Loading...
JoBlo's T-Shirt Shoppe | support our site... Wear Our Gear!