The Fifth Estate (2013)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB.5.  

USA/India/Belgium, 2013.  DreamWorks, Reliance Entertainment, Participant Media, Anonymous Content, FBO, Umedia.  Screenplay by , based on the book Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website by , , .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Toronto International Film Festival 2013.

The saga of Julian Assange is given the cinematic treatment by Bill Condon, with Benedict Cumberbatch doing an uncanny riff on the man and an excellent  as his sidekick, Daniel Berg. The two of them start as journalists with a conscience when their first major project, to reveal the identities of crooked financiers hiding wealth in a major offshore bank, makes their web project WikiLeaks a cause celebre. Their various schemes to remove secrecy from government operations and reveal the culprits of the world’s 21st century financial crisis reaches its apex when footage and documents related to dirty dealings in the war in Afghanistan places them in grave legal danger.  The dedicated Assange is unphased by the situation and feels no fear, so free of vulnerability that he is actually the main reason this well shot, well edited and strongly directed biopic has zero flavour, a story with contemporary resonance that fails to capture any of the excitement or immediacy of the situation it presents. The decline of traditional journalism, both in the diminishing of its presence as a physical print source but also in the crumbling of verification ethics that has led to the removal of responsibility in the field, is presented with hackneyed simplicity:  everything necessary for a good movie is here but nothing adds up to much.

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