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The Fifth Estate

The Fifth Estate

In Theatres: 
Oct 18, 2013
Running Time: 
2 Hours, 4 Minutes

There’s a fine line between truth and fiction, and films often toe that line very closely in their depictions of “reality.” The whistleblower website WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange have already drawn plenty of attention and criticism and The Fifth Estate only seems to add more fuel to the fire, although not all that well apparently.

The film explores the rise of WikiLeaks into prominent news outlets as it becomes a viable space for whistleblowers to leak sensitive employer documents, whether that be illegal bank statements from giant corporations or even our own US government secrets. As the website grows in popularity, so does its founder, Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch). On the verge of the biggest leak in the website’s history, Assange and cohort Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) find themselves being followed by the government in their search for the truth.

The Fifth Estate plays out more like a Jason Bourne thriller than anything else with a heavy reliance on flashy and oftentimes gimmicky visuals that have no influence on the story but simply look fancy on the screen. Everything is a metaphor in the film, and the novelty of it wears thin quickly. It’s especially noticeable at the beginning of the film, although it does drop off considerably by the end. As interesting as its subject matter is, the film comes across as somewhat dull. It over-exaggerates every little detail and yet somehow misses the mark on what made WikiLeaks what it is today. Thankfully, there are some wonderful performances, especially when it comes to Benedict Cumberbatch.

Whether he’s playing Sherlock Holmes or Khan, Benedict Cumberbatch knows how to get into character and with Julian Assange it’s no different. Cumberbatch brilliantly captures the look, voice, and mannerisms of Assange down to the simplest detail. His performance is commendable, even if the script isn’t as noteworthy, and the film is worth watching for that fact alone.

The Fifth Estate will overwhelm you with its flashy visuals and over-the-top direction in an attempt to mask its mediocre plot. It tries to be bigger than it is, and as a result, struggles to have a defined message. Past that, there are some commendable performances out of Cumberbatch and Domscheit-Berg so thankfully all is not lost.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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Joe's picture

I thought this movie was a bore and simply dragged