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The Fifth Estate - Film Review

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by Yvette Chapman (subscribe)
Thirty something girl, originally from Sydney but Brisbane is home now. Eats, drinks, socialises, watches art-house, studies the stars, and loves music. I'm a professional copywriter and editor. Hearts writing things.
Published November 12th 2013
Giving society information they have the right to know
The Fifth Estate is a political thriller based on the controversial true story of Julian Assange one of the most notorious computer hackers and activists of the internet-age and his whistleblowing website, WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks broke the mould of traditional news reporting by releasing highly confidential information leaked by anonymous informants. This had the power to overthrow some of the world's most high-profile organisations. In 2010, WikiLeaks had access to the biggest database of military intelligence documents in US history. This had the potential to shine a spotlight into the shadows of the US government and hold those in power accountable for their actions, while at the same time putting innocent lives in danger.



The film is based on the books 'Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website' by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, and 'WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy' by David Leigh and Luke Harding (The Guardian).

Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek and The Hobbit) puts in a stellar performance as Assange, a man on a mission, unrelenting in his pursuit for the truth, who will stop at nothing to reveal secrets and expose the crimes of corporate powerhouses in an attempt to stamp out corruption, topple repressive regimes and achieve positive political reform.

Cumberbatch is unwavering in his portrayal of a somewhat egotistical, and at times, unpalatable Assange, even bearing a strikingly uncanny resemblance to him.

Assange's right-hand man, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, played by Daniel Bruhl (Inglorious Basterds), is equally convincing as a man who is torn between idolising Assange and questioning his motives. He is a likeable character in contrast modest, intelligent, and also passionate about changing the world.

Together Assange and Domscheit-Berg team up as underground watchdogs, joining forces to try to bring about an end to corruption. Throughout this journey their relationship is tested as their dramatic friendship is fraught with issues of rivalry and betrayal, frequently finding themselves at odds with each other.

The film explores themes such as power and corruption and the ensuing struggles it creates, moral conscience, and the risks one is willing to take for truth, justice and what they believe in. Be prepared to delve deep into your own morals and ethics. While the film didn't make the heart-racing moments feel that legitimate, the moral dilemmas and thought-provoking issues are confronting and real.

With a story that has generated such huge international interest, this film had the potential for big things, however it failed to deliver right from the start. The story unfolds in fragments that are difficult to piece together coherently, particularly for those unfamiliar with the sequence of events in the WikiLeaks story.

Fast-paced scene changes add further confusion, as the story weaves its way around the globe, almost simultaneously. One minute you're getting your head around what's going on in Kenya, then before you know it you're in Zurich, Belgium, the United States.

Filmmakers wanted to create a fast-paced reality using hand-held cameras to allow for fly-on-the-wall closeness to the action and an array of perspectives. While it's difficult keeping up with all the tweets and internet chats emblazoned across the screen, and the mishmash of colours, angles and special effects, filmmakers were certainly successful in giving the impression of a dynamic cyberspace.

It's important to leave behind any expectations that this is just another documentary about the WikiLeaks Story. 'The film is not a documentary, and not designed to be one,' says The Fifth Estate's Director, Bill Condon. 'A number of good documentaries on WikiLeaks already exist and there will doubtless be more. We wanted to do something different "The Fifth Estate" represents just a slice of the WikiLeaks story, and one interpretation of it.'

While WikiLeaks remains at the centre of debate about where the lines should be drawn for freedom of truth, the quandary lies in where to draw those lines and who should draw them. Is Assange a revolutionary humanitarian with philosophical ideals and dreams of a better world, or simply a greedy man vying for power without real regard to the consequences of his actions and the impacts these can have on others. One can appreciate the difficulties in producing an unbiased portrayal of a man who is as equally admired as he is despised, but see the movie for yourself and you can draw your own conclusions on which angle the film's producers have taken.

This movie is rated M and runs for approximately two hours. It is
co-produced by DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment.
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When: Now showing
Where: In cinemas
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