The story of Julian Assange and Wikileaks was one of the biggest events of recent years. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that The Fifth Estate followed closely behind, with director Bill Condon (who directed the final two Twilight movies) tasked with taking the story to the big screen.
It’s a story that will be familiar to anyone that paid attention to the news when it first broke and wasn’t living under a rock. Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), with the help of Daniel Berg (Daniel Bruhl), created Wikileaks, a website designed to allow whistle blowers anonymity when releasing important documents. This eventually led to them, in collaboration with several major news outlets, releasing over 200,000 US State department diplomatic cables, which contained information on everything from major US politicians opinions on other countries governments to information on various US informants around the world.
That this story is so well known is probably this films biggest weakness. It’s hard to build up tension when talking about an event so fresh in everyone’s memories, because we all know exactly where it’s going and as the film doesn’t make any real strives to include any new information (real or fictional) about Assange and Berg we are left with a feeling of de ja vu. In fact as the story is still very much ongoing you feel like despite it’s two hour runtime it hasn’t actually finished. Finally they’ve come up against the problem of it being hard to create any excitement around a group of men sitting at computers. They manage it to a certain extent by representing the Internet as a giant office, but when compared with successes like The Social Network it doesn’t really stand up.
Where this film is strong is in it’s performances. Benedict Cumberbatch is having the time of his life right now and if the film surrounding him was a bit better then the Oscar buzz for this would be building round about now. As it is he is the best thing about the film and his portrayal of the weird but determined Assange makes it worth watching alone. Surrounding him, Daniel Bruhl continues his good form from Rush and both Stanley Tucci and Peter Calpadi pop up now and again with very solid performances.
Twenty years from now it might be possible to make a fantastic film about Julian Assange. As things stand this is a movie about a fantastic news story that maybe for the time being should have stayed a news story.