The Fifth Estate Review
As an enjoyable dramatisation of the tumultuous rise of whistleblowing website Wikileaks and the relationship between its two founders.
What’s it about? Directed by Bill Condon and based on two novels – one by Wikileaks partner Daniel Berg, the other by Guardian journalist David Leigh – The Fifth Estate opens with the now infamous release of classified US military information before rewinding to the first meeting between Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Berg (Daniel Bruhl). As Wikileaks’ popularity grows in the wake of its public unmaskings, the friendship between its two creators sours as they clash over Wikileaks’ mission and morals.
Verdict: In the past filmmakers have had trouble making computer hacking cinematically exciting, but Condon deserves credit for getting creative with his depiction of online journalism, throwing plenty of dynamic visual flourishes at the screen. Many of them stick, although a virtual office full of Assanges ends up as one idea too many.
The Fifth Estate has rightly drawn parallels with David Fincher’s The Social Network, but whilst that movie examined finance, in The Fifth Estate ethics take centre stage which make for compelling drama. However with the larger issues that come with an analysis of Wikileaks and the different viewpoints offered by various characters throughout Condon’s biopic, ultimately there is too much information.
Cumberbatch is outstanding as the polarizing Assange; not only is the Australian accent pitch perfect, but the mannerisms are spot on as well. Though the man himself has denounced the actor and the film, it’s impressive mimicry from the Sherlock star, whilst Bruhl also gives a solid turn in a comparatively reserved role. Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis and Peter Capaldi all offer strong support, although too often it feels as though they only pop up to state different perspectives (read exposition) rather than getting to the heart of the issue.
Final Words: The recent We Steal Secrets: The Story Of Wikileaks documentary is a far more comprehensive take on the divisive website and its founder but The Fifth Estate remains a fun and flashy alternative, aided by another knockout performance from Benedict Cumberbatch.
The Fifth Estate is out in cinemas today.