Film review by Mike Bonner
Tracking the story of WikiLeaks right from the site’s early days, The Fifth Estate documents the meeting of Jullian Assange and co-activist Daniel Berg. From their initial headlines – such as revealing the complete list of BNP members and the exposure of the Julius Bear Bank’s corruption – all the way to the Afghanistan War Logs and the Bradley/Chelsea Manning that brought the whole cyber scandal to a grinding halt. However, this is about as far as the film takes the story. Nothing new is added to the tale which was splashed across news screens all over the world not long ago.
The Fifth Estate has a Social Network like air to it, but fails to deliver any of Fincher’s emotional weight that was present in the Facebook origins story. Instead Condon makes half-hearted attempts to instil some life into his very one dimensional leads. Cumberbatch is interesting as Assange, but the script doesn’t enable him to be more than monotonous and a little creepy. Brühl, equally, despite his attempts, is left seeming like an underdeveloped character desperately wanting to be explored a little more. The supporting casts also features a very anxious looking Peter Capaldi as the Guardian editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, alongside David Thewlis’s investigative Guardian reporter who’s main role seems to be crashing meetings.
There are a few havens however, mainly in the visual effects and settings department. For instance, the quick changes from location to location, such as Iceland to Kenya covered in less than a few seconds make an interesting attempt to conjure up the impression of the sheer speed in which information can travel around the world. Additionally the array of coffee shops, clubs, bars and restaurants, which depict where the site’s developers met and exposed some of the world’s most devastating secrets are interesting to behold, as so far as you could imagine the next time you’re in Costa the guy sitting opposite you on his Apple Mac could be hacking into NASA’s mainframe.
Overall then, Condon unfortunately seems to have produced a very pedestrian and bluntly, a very dull account of what is one of the most important sagas of the information age. Maybe Jullian Assange himself had it right when he overtly said he didn’t want to have anything to do with the film.
Desperately in need of a script rework and some more depth, The Fifth Estate earns a disappointing 4 out of 10.Tweet