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Wikileaking – A review of The Fifth Estate

Updated on November 6, 2013
Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl star in the Fifth Estate, the story of Wikileaks founders Julian Assange and Daniel Berg.
Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl star in the Fifth Estate, the story of Wikileaks founders Julian Assange and Daniel Berg.

Title: The Fifth Estate

Production Company: Dreamworks

Run Time: 128 minutes

Rated: R

Director: Bill Condon

Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Mackie

4 stars for The Fifth Estate

Summary: A taut and gripping look at the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that went on at Wikileaks that eventually led to the collapse of the whistleblower website and the falling out of the two leaders at its head.

Benedict Cumberbatch bears an eerie resemblance to Julian Assange, which makes him uniquely qualified to play the controversial figure on the big screen.

Both men generally appear to be genuinely loathsome, too, Assange as a result of his disparaging character and Cumberbatch for the roles he plays.

But whether or not you like the guy, the real question that bears the focus of this movie is whether or not he had the right approach when it came to releasing damning information on the internet

It was, according to this movie, Assange’s assertion that the public has the right to know everything that goes on, even behind closed doors in government and in the corporate world.

It was also his belief that the information should be disseminated without redaction, a policy adopted by most media publications that removes personally sensitive information from articles before they are indiscriminately released to the world.

In this day and age, such information is often irresponsibly printed by some publications anyway. Take the case in point when a short thinking journalist in New York decided to publish the names and addresses of all the gun owners in the Big Apple.

Not only was she fired shortly afterwards, but her name, home address and phone number were posted to numerous sites on the internet in apparent payback.

So the question of whether Assange and his partner Daniel Berg (Daniel Bruhl) were right or wrong is up to the filmgoer to decide. The film gives the perspective that perhaps Wikileaks was in the wrong. But it doesn’t overly preach that ideal, either.

There are some wonderful allusions to several more recent events that also were exposed as a result of whistleblowers. The public had a right to know about these issues even though the mainstream media had a tendency to cover them up. (Benghazzi, anyone?)

The book on which the film is based was written by Berg, so you know there’s some bias here. Supposedly, Assange even implored Cumberbatch not to star in this movie.

But as with most geopolitical and corporate dramas, this film won’t appeal to everyone. It moves slowly, but gains momentum as the story builds. There are interesting diversions that can take you into the mindsets of the characters, too, that actually lend to the confusion factor in the film.

But if you want to see one version of the events that built and destroyed Wikileaks, this is certainly a well written and acted story. It won’t last long in theaters, but it will definitely build a following on DVD.

I give The Fifth Estate 4 out of 5 stars.

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