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The Fifth Estate
Getting Wiki with it

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The rise and fall of whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, told through the prism of the relationship between founder Julian Assange (Cumberbatch) and techie activist Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Brühl).

The Fifth Estate

Is The Fifth Estate a cunning ruse by the intelligence services to lure Julian Assange out of his embassy bolt-hole? Imagine the agony! The hottest young Hollywood talent acting out the story of your life and you can’t check it out. What kind of raging egomaniac could resist? Well, he’d be wise to try. Bill Condon’s account of the WikiLeaks brouhaha is a plodding and preachy film that treads well-worn ground without adding anything new or particularly animating what’s known.

Taking the story from the site’s early days, it charts the outfit’s initial headline-grabbing scoops, from the publishing of the membership of the BNP, complete with addresses and telephone numbers, to the Chelsea, née Bradley, Manning episode that brought the whole cyber-edifice crashing down. David Thewlis is mildly embarrassing as Nick Davies, a Guardian investigative hack prone to storming dramatically into meetings. Peter Capaldi, meanwhile, looks anxious and grips his chin a lot as editor Alan Rusbridger. Benedict Cumberbatch is effective as Assange, insofar as his performance is one-note and creepy, but Daniel Brühl struggles with the underwritten role of co-conspirator Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Condon, working from an uneven, pedestrian screenplay by ex-West Wing writer Josh Singer, at first attempts to give the piece a post-Bourne patina complete with jittery titles and insistent score (courtesy of Carter Burwell), but soon a fondness for hackneyed visual devices emerges. When Assange fiddles with his files, luminous characters skitter across his face. An effect Ridley Scott used to great effect in Alien. Nearly 40 years ago.

There are technical saving graces: Tobias A. Schliessler’s cinematography and Mark Tildeseley’s production design atmospherically conjure the throbbing techno clubs and coffee shops in which the plotters gather, while Condon gets the most out of his European locations, particularly the blasted alien moonscapes of Iceland against which Assange looks almost at home. In a The Man Who Fell To Earth kind of way.

Disappointingly dull account of a tale desperately in need of a sharper screenplay and some directorial vim. Might as well wait for the Blu-ray, Jules.

Reviewed by Adam Smith

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Fifth Estate, The

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Empire Star Rating

RE: The Fifth Estate

I enjoyed this. I don't know how accurate it is (will we ever?), but I found it thought to be both thought provoking and thrilling. The pursuit of truth has been, and will always be a noble and just cause, but does it also come with a level of responsibility? Benedict Cumberbatch (or CumberPatch as Cineworld would have you believe...) Julian Assange. ... More

Posted by Hood_Man at 23:49, 17 October 2013 | Report This Post

RE: The Fifth Estate

The Fifth Estate is an engaging watch, even if it doesn't remain consistently accessible. The main problem seems to be, how do you really tell a story which isn't finished yet? It's nice to be able to sit back and watch from a non-judgemental point of view, but there's very little in here that hasn't been all over the news for the past couple of years. It's still got to be miles better than the 'blockbuster thriller' version that will inevitably come out, though. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheMightyBlackout at 22:26, 16 October 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Absolutely engrossing stuff

Julian Assange, who since November 2010 has been entrenched in the UK’s Ecuadorian embassy because if he leaves he will not only be extradited to Sweden under charges of sexual assault but may also be taken to the US to be prosecuted about his leaking of US diplomatic cables, has said that this film is a “lie” and “hostile”. Based on three books written by people who had beefs with Mr Assange, The Fifth Estate nly presents him as rather odd and not too nice a guy, being egotisital, sociopathic ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 12:36, 16 October 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Absolutely engrossing stuff

Agree with the above,except about Cumberbatch-this is his film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by CriticNumberOne at 01:23, 15 October 2013 | Report This Post

Absolutely engrossing stuff

I sometimes wonder if Empire actually watch any movies they review. This was absolutely fantastic, and as close to an edge of the seat thriller as you could get for an internet whistle-blower story. The time just whisked past and credit has to go to the screenplay, it's electric. Cumberbatch as ever is just awesome, but special praise goes to Brühl, for once again this year, upstaging the lead actor, after his brilliant turn in Rush. Thoroughly satisfying and thoroughly recommended. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Azzurro06 at 18:25, 13 October 2013 | Report This Post


This is not a 2 star film for a start! Cumberbatch owns the role,and it's a glitzy,mtv style modern masterpiece. It is anything but boring,given the subject matter is about computer geeks. A great debate piece about information and who should have access to it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by CriticNumberOne at 17:07, 13 October 2013 | Report This Post


This is not a 2 star film for a start! Cumberbatch owns the role,and it's a glitzy,mtv style modern masterpiece. It is anything but boring,given the subject matter is about computer geeks. A great debate piece about information and who should have access to it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by CriticNumberOne at 17:07, 13 October 2013 | Report This Post


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