When I first saw the trailer for Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate I was a little concerned at just how quickly this story was hitting the silver screen. After all, WikiLeaks was only founded seven years ago. The controversy and historical significance of this organisation are still developing. When entering and leaving the cinema I was very aware that this is not a finished story. Although the film focusses on the controversial founder of WikiLeak, Julian Assange, it is important to note that the film is based on the book by Daniel Domscheit-Berg about his time with WikiLeaks and Assange. The book, Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange and the World’s Most Dangerous Website, was released in 2011. Only two years later, the cinematic adaptation depicts Assange and his sacrifices, conflicts and revolutionary journalistic accomplishments through the countless uncovering of political and economical treachery and betrayal.
There is no doubt that the film’s greatest element lies in Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as Assange. Cumberbatch is rapidly becoming one of the most diverse, ambitious and respected actors in his field. His performance as Assange is outstanding. It is full of depth and a certain precision that highlights Assange’s complexities. You may have read in the recent media about Assange’s letter to the actor, pleading with Cumberbatch not to play him. The actor replied to the WikiLeaks founder, explaining his belief in the importance of telling the story through film. The film has been criticised for its confused depiction of Assange. I disagree. Although the film, at times, seems confused about where it was going to go, I enjoyed the contradictory views of Assange which made him seem even more complex and un-understandable. Some critics seem to have been displeased with the film’s inability to get to the heart of Assange as a man, activist and professional. I felt this simply re-affirmed the fact that this story is far from over.
The film has a very strong cast with performances from David Thewlis, Stanley Tucci and Laura Linney being particularly consistent. The film’s pace is a little disjointed but, once again, I felt that this complemented the suspense and uncertainty of the events that are unfolding. Even the film’s use of 3-D office space to represent the internet and the on-line activities of the characters, which risks seeming dated and clichéd, was well carried out. The Fifth Estate was not biased towards or against any of its characters – the dangerous possibility when adapting your story from one man’s opinionated record of encounters. Overall, the film is thrilling intense and enjoyable. Admittedly, it wouldn’t be half as great without Cumberbatch, but luckily he’s there to leave you in awe from start to finish.
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