SYNOPSIS: Triggering our age of high-stakes secrecy, explosive news leaks and the trafficking of classified information, WikiLeaks forever changed the game. Now, in a dramatic thriller based on real events, “The Fifth Estate” reveals the quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned an Internet upstart into the 21st century’s most fiercely debated organization. The story begins as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) team up to become underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful. On a shoestring, they create a platform that allows whistleblowers to anonymously leak covert data, shining a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes. Soon, they are breaking more hard news than the world’s most legendary media organizations combined. But when Assange and Berg gain access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in U.S. history, they battle each other and a defining question of our time: what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society—and what are the costs of exposing them?"
REVIEW: In 2011 and 2012, Bill Condon brought us The Twilight Sagas (Pt1&2). Now he’s at it again with this ambitious and zealous bio-pic on the early days of WikiLeaks and the primary characters involved. He attempts to give a broad picture of WikiLeaks whilst honing in on the relationship of founder Julian Assange and his second-in-command Daniel Domscheit-Berg.
One of the most interesting aspects well worth noting is how Benedict Cumberbatch captures Assange’s voice and body language flawlessly. The vocal patterns and mannerisms all seem polished to perfection. His Assange is an eccentric egotist for whom the Wikileaks.com revolution, in newsgathering and dissemination, was a means to gain great personal power. To be put bluntly, Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Assange is simply mesmerizing, and one of the best representations in recent memory. He certainly demonstrates that he can competently carry a feature film in his first leading role.
Daniel Bruehl’s (Rush, 2013) portrayal of Assange’s WikiLeaks partner, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, seems to function as the conscience of the film, which isn’t surprising if you follow the reports on the book. Allegedly, Domscheit-Berg’s take/book on Assange does provide such a narrative point of view; though, he doesn’t really have anything more to do than become increasingly disillusioned with Assange. This is until he reaches his ethical breaking point, that is. With such a powerhouse of central performances from Comberbach and Bruehl, the other actors barely get a chance to shine, but there's definitely strong work from the likes of Hollywood veterans, Laura Linney (Arthur Christmas, 2011) and The Hunger Games’, Stanley Tucci.
On the down side, the metaphorical use of heavy-handed FX sequences make the film feel dated rather than contemporary, and the only genuine suspense is built in to the flick’s final sequences around the mainstream media’s simultaneous world-wide release of the leaked Manning documents. Arguably, more time is needed to provide perspective on Wikileaks’ impact on the media’s watchdog function versus the need for government secrecy. This efficient but uninspired work doesn’t provide any more insight into the issue than a television docudrama would. The zest of the subject matter fizzles out after a while and the movie really sags, toward the finale. After all, bio-pics really need substance or they just tend to slide into irrelevance.
All the same, Condon has a track record in this genre and we need not look any further than what he did with Liam Neeson in Kinsey (2004). However, we’re faced here with the unfortunately fact that The Fifth Estate isn’t his finest work to date. It’s a story worth watching in DVD format, but does not warrant the trouble of theatre tickets. Yet, it is worthy of receiving three out of five stars for quality casting, story relevance and approach.
By Movi-Man Stan
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