Film: The Fifth Estate
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl
Directed by: Bill Condon
Duration: 2 hrs 8 mins
Rating: * * 1 / 2
Directed by Bill Condon whose has films range from the eminently watchable Gods and Monsters to the disastrous Twilight films (Breaking Dawn I & II), The Fifth Estate tells us the story of Wikileaks and Julian Assange. From what we know, it should ideally be a gripping account of how that one man caused so much upheaval all around the world by exposing dark deadly secrets but the screenplay leaves a fair bit to be desired. The primary source for it is two books, one of them written by Assange’s former friend Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the two had split acrimoniously.
Benedict Cumberbatch essays the role of Assange and the film starts at a point when he still was one man force. He met Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl) a young programmer who shares Assange’s enthusiasm for setting things right in the world. The Wikileaks website offered a platform for sources to anonymously provide information about corrupt practices and the duo had first exposed a Swiss bank and from there on, their campaign to publish information that would rattle the powerful and mighty continued. Till the Bradley Manning episode occurred that made waves around the globe and most importantly, riled up the United States no end.
On key issues, the film doesn’t really know what stand to take. Since the book is biased against Assange, it projects him as a very self centered, selfish guy. And because Daniel has written the book, he gets as much screen time and his character comes off far more polished and clear. There are moments when Assange is shown as a crusader with a vision but at the end of it all, there is no clear picture.
Comparatively, Alex Gibney’s documentary We Steal Secrets-The Story of WikiLeaks was far more insightful.The Fifth Estate keeps you engaged because of the nature of the subject and a good performance, both from Cumberbatch and Bruhl.
(Published in The Navhind Times on 27th Oct. 2013)