“The Fifth Estate” takes a crack at Wikileaks and the events that catapulted the website to infamy, but lacks the tension and blood pumping excitement to convince me it’s a thriller.
The film follows Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his partner Daniel Berg (Daniel Bruhl), and the events leading up to the release of over 200,000 military documents from the “Iraq War Logs” and the political ramifications that follow.
The film doesn’t speculate on the enigmatic founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, it’s not a character study, and it doesn’t pretend to be, but it does have scenes that made me believe it might’ve wanted to, particularly the last. Instead, Assange comes and goes, much like you hear in the papers, arriving and setting out before you can figure anything out. Cumberbatch is persuasive as the tenacious Australian, capturing the undercurrent of half-truths, and a bit of desperation. You can never quite trust him and Benedict convinced me of it. Bruhl played the voice of reason as the German hacker Berg, the straight man with a belief in the cause of free information. The characters only intersect briefly and sporadically, but the execution of the story ruined any sort of long-lasting impression their performances might’ve had. I don’t blame the actors for this one, they did their job. The problem is that the film isn’t a character study, nor does it try to capture the nail-biting events, or even comment on the political ramifications. Instead, it pauses on each, bouncing back and forth without ever making a point. It’s messy and not in the good sense of the word, or Tarantino messy, it’s just disorganized. The hacking scenes stifled the tension even further, which are constructed and executed through an imaginary Wikileaks Headquarters, a large empty office with rows of cubicles and desks, Assange or Berg occupying one or the other as they set out to work. You can imagine what the filmmakers are trying to do, creating the façade of what Assange always told the media Wikileaks was, but the filmmakers used this “set” to make two guys at their computer more interesting when it should’ve concentrated on building anxiety and bringing the characters personalities out from behind their screens.
At the end I couldn’t help but wish the filmmakers could’ve stuck to a character study, it would’ve felt more concrete and been more interesting with Cumberbatch well equipped for the job.
DVD: Some special features and content including: The Submission Platform, In-Camera graphics, Scoring Secrets with Carter Burtwell, Trailer and T.V. spots.
The Blu-Ray edition also comes packed with a digital download, a regular DVD, and of course, the Blu-ray.