The Fifth Estate (2013)
Directed by: Bill Condon
Written by: Daniel Domscheit-Berg, David Leigh, Josh Singer, Luke Harding
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Carice van Houten, Daniel Brühl, Peter Capaldi
IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 128 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Ex-computer hacker Julian Assange has formed a website called WikiLeaks, a platform that allows whistle-blowers to anonymously leak covert data, shining a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes. Journalist Daniel Domscheit-Berg becomes involved, though he is rather surprised to find that the supposed organisation of WikiLeaks is just one person – Julian. Nonetheless, they are soon breaking more hard news than the world’s most legendary media organizations combined, though it takes a toll on Daniel’s relationship with his girlfriend….
Julian Assange, who since November 2010 has been entrenched in the UK’s Ecuadorian embassy because if he leaves he will not only be extradited to Sweden under charges of sexual assault but may also be taken to the US to be prosecuted about his leaking of US diplomatic cables, has said that this film is a “lie” and “hostile”. Based on three books written by people who had beefs with Mr Assange, The Fifth Estate [which is, of course, the internet, the fourth being the press] certainly presents him as rather odd and not too nice a guy, being egotisital, sociopathic and a liar, amongst other things, but it seems that he was indeed these things. In terms of what he did, with the exception of a brief bit where Daniel’s girlfriend says it was wrong to for members of the BNP to have their names and addresses published, the film is very much on his side, not really questioning what he is doing [something which leaves an uneasy taste considering the recent behaviour of the Guardian] and turning the whole thing into a classic tale of someone versus the establishment.
The pace is fast and, while films revolving around people doing stuff on computers rarely results in interesting cinema, The Fifth Estate does its best to make up for this with lots of Bourne-style switching to various locations and a surprising amount of suspense in its second half. There’s also the usual situation of someone who spends too much time with his job for his girlfriend’s liking. Benedict Cumberbatch virtually disappears into the part of Julian, but Daniel Bruhl, again given the less ‘showy’ role in a film, almost matches him. A bit simplistic, and the attempt to create a somewhat feel-good piece from the material doesn’t quite come off, but it’s far more enjoyable than you may expect, while Bill Condon has atoned for his Twilight films. And you have to love the way it has its cake and eats it at the end where it has Julian criticise a film about him and say: “If you want the truth, you should seek it out for yourself”.