You’d think a movie about media mavericks would be a breathless ride in 70-point bold in a gothic font — think All the President’s Men, Citizen Kane or The Killing Fields. Unfortunately, The Fifth Estate about WikiLeaks founder and editor Julian Assange is none of these. It is confused, sitting-on-the-fence narrative, which is all terribly tiresome.
The nerdy stuff with geeks in the accepted uniform of thick glasses, mussed up hair and jerseys is plain annoying. And then there is ethical hacking and all those 21st century buzz words. The German film 23 was far more effective and thrilling. You don’t get to care for any of the characters. Assange is a cipher and his associate Daniel Domscheit-Berg is even more of blank. The chronology seems all skewed and the quick cuts and the great revelations, all lead nowhere.
Based on Domscheit-Berg’s book, Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website and WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy by journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding, The Fifth Estate is directed by Bill Condon who earlier directed the Twilight movies, Breaking Dawn 1 & 2. Perhaps he should be forgiven for making such a gooey mess of a movie — it takes time to recover from vampires who are bad actors.
The two things The Fifth Estate has going for it are Benedict Cumberbatch and the title sequence. Cumberbatch who made intelligent sexy with the television series, Sherlock and was extraordinary as Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness, makes for a compelling Assange, only because he is so eminently watchable. Incidentally, that other hottie from British telly, Dan Stevens (Matthew in Downton Abbey) is also floating about fixing people with his glittering eyes. Laura Linney, David Thewlis and Stanley Tucci glide in and out of the story looking rather confused. The title sequence that tells the history of spreading news from Egyptian hieroglyphics to the present was super fascinating.
Assange apparently was very upset with the movie describing it as lie upon lie and a serious propaganda attack. He needn’t worry about The Fifth Estate harming his cause, by the time it tediously meanders to its portentous end, people would heave a sigh of relief and rush out of the theatre wondering why Assange’s hair is white.
Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Brühl, Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander, Stanley Tucci, Laura Linney.
Storyline: WikiLeaks founder and editor, Julian Assange’s war against secrecy
Bottomline: Boring but for Benedict