Creator of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is currently one of the world’s most controversial people. “The Fifth Estate” covers the rise of Assange’s site, partnership with Daniel Domscheit-Berg, and the world coverage and limited opinions of Assange’s actions. The trailer intrigues with a seemingly unbiased perspective, but “The Fifth Estate” suggests a manipulative, egotistical visionary and condemns the man but not his vision.
Much like David Fincher’s “The Social Network” of a few years ago without the stylish talent, Bill Condon’s “The Fifth Estate” focuses more on the betrayal and vindication for those wronged by the creator of a revolutionary website than it does presenting a clear, historical account of events. Partially based on the book by Assange’s primary former teammate, the point-of-view is that of Daniel Berg (Daniel Bruhl) and his fascination with Julian Assange’s work exposing corruption that leads to their joint effort behind WikiLeaks. Shortly after Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) creates WikiLeaks, he teams up with Daniel, who idolizes him, to further develop his site and add manpower for investigating. As Daniel becomes more involved with WikiLeaks, he begins to sacrifice everything that he cares about, including his girlfriend (Alicia Vikander) and his job, but he begins to sense that Assange is using him while relying on him to balance Assange’s reckless, abrasive persona with understanding and cool-headedness. As their site grows, Daniel invests money and all of his time into it without gratitude from Assange. Their friendship and partnership finally split when Assange decides to irresponsibly release unaltered information from the U.S. government that puts lives in danger.
Instead of showing his life or the motivations that launched Assange’s drive to create WikiLeaks, “The Fifth Estate” focuses on his petty quarrels, self-involvement, and jealousy with selfish motivators while suggesting Daniel and journalist Nick Davies (David Thewlis) recognize the purpose and positive revolutionary potential WikiLeaks creates for journalism. Overall, “The Fifth Estate” negatively stands and passes judgment. However, poking fun at the story behind Assange’s hair color shows just how petty the filmmakers can be, too.
Director Bill Condon (both parts of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”) has created a messy film; “The Fifth Estate” contains topnotch performances from Daniel Bruhl and Benedict Cumberbatch (though neither is very personable here) yet has a spastic presentation with occasional hyper scenes with revolving, roaming camera shots that batter the viewer. The rapid story progression never takes a break to build a connection to the characters. Protagonist Daniel provides the record of events without presenting any personality to his tale; though Assange is painted in such a negative light as a dark mastermind, he is far more interesting. Cumberbatch provides the only memorable moments in the film, mostly when Assange makes speeches. Otherwise, Condon barely utilizes his other talented performers (including Laura Linney, Anthony Mackie, and Stanley Tucci). The hasty structure and lack of connection to any character fail to provide Bruhl and Cumberbatch with a film to support their talents.
Rating for “The Fifth Estate:” C-
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“The Fifth Estate” is playing at most larger theatres in Columbus, including Movie Tavern and AMC Grove City, but expect it to disappear quickly. For showtimes, click here.