WikiLeaksThriller Explores Assange’s Past
Published: Friday, October 18, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 21:10
Only Benedict Cumberbatch could be commanded not to take a role by the man he portrays in a film and still play him to perfection. The Fifth Estate, directed by Bill Condon, depicts the story of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks’ meteoric rise to notoriety.
Cumberbatch captures Assange perfectly, down to his mannerisms and attitudes: He’s arrogant, he’s eccentric and he may even be crazy, but he’s always the smartest person in the room. The audience is privy to information about Assange’s traumatic childhood through flashbacks. Overall, The Fifth Estate is entertaining, surprisingly witty and thought provoking. It has all the makings of a great movie; however, viewers should be aware that it is not an expose of Assange or WikiLeaks. Its value falls entirely within the realm of entertainment and not in a detailed account of the WikiLeaks saga.
The movie begins with clips of moments in history and the media to illustrate the meaning of its title. WikiLeaks is sometimes hailed as the most revolutionary media source in the world. The Fifth Estate is one step above “the fourth estate,” a traditional nickname for the press as a whole.
As soon as the opening credits end, the film dives into a chase scene. From that point on, the fast-paced action captivates the audience. By painting Assange and his actions in a controversial light, the film embodies the tension of the high-stakes situations that make up the plot. Intriguing chronology and flashbacks also help to convey the thought processes of every decision Assange makes and the widespread effect his decisions have on the global flow of information.
The Fifth Estate shows issues from the perspective of WikiLeaks and the organizations WikiLeaks exposes, while also illustrating the power struggles as they emerged within the organization. The relationship between Assange and his second-in-command, Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl), is reminiscent of the relationship between Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network. Like Saverin, Berg’s main goal is to temper his impulsive leader.
The tense dynamic between Berg and Assange leaps off the screen mainly due to Brühl’s skill as an actor. He plays equal parts conflicted revolutionary and cubicle worker, and the audience will adore him for it. The comparison between Berg’s humanity and Assange’s intense focus is the main device utilized by filmmakers to raise the debate asked in the movie’s tagline: hero or traitor?
A huge part of the film’s appeal is its use of media — social and news media. Superimposing a Twitter feed, news clips and headlines over movie shots makes for the perfect balance between fact and fiction. These tweets and headlines show what a huge global impact WikiLeaks’ information had as its power grew. While The Fifth Estate follows many small plot lines as WikiLeaks starts to break bigger stories, the culmination of the plot comes with the release of secret U.S. military logs covering the war in Afghanistan. These logs, which feature details of violence against civilians, made WikiLeaks a force to be reckoned with. Here, the pace accelerates as the ethical debate opens up.
The various power struggles highlighted in The Fifth Estate open the forum for ethical debate as Assange must decide just how far across the line he wants to leap, while his friend Berg tries to hold him back.
Thrilling, suspenseful, The Fifth Estate is definitely worth your time, especially for fans of The Social Network. As an interesting and well-made movie, The Fifth Estate is a home run.