The Fifth Estate

The Fifth Estate is the dramatised story of WikiLeaks, following Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Daniel Berg (Daniel Brühl) from the organisation’s early victories through to the leak of the Afghanistan War Logs.

The problem is that anyone who’s paid any attention to the news over the last few years will be familiar with this story, and the film is simply a retelling of those events. This means you leave the cinema with no new information or insight as the film skips across the story’s surface like a stone. It jumps from place to place, moment to moment with the attention span of a caffeinated infant.

Director Bill Condon attempts to mask this lack of substance with flashy visuals which end up making The Fifth Estate look more like an advert than a serious drama. This isn’t helped by the prominent use of the Tame Impala song Elephant, recently used in a Blackberry ad. That annoying piece of ad-rock combines with writing whizzing across the screen to create what feels like a very expensive phone commercial.

The Fifth Estate is symptomatic of the way Hollywood deals with real life stories, capitalising on their high profiles while stripping them of any actual bite. As tends to be the case, there are great performances and little else. The two leads completely carry this movie; the excellent Cumberbatch in particular manages to entirely convince and even displays some wonderful dance moves.

The impressive supporting cast are given little to do, however, leaving Peter Capaldi and Laura Linney criminally underused. It’s not even entirely clear who Linney’s character is, which is a shame as her few moments in the spotlight are among the film’s highlights. The Fifth Estate either over-explains or under-explains everything, hammering home the obvious stuff and leaving the rest unexplored.

By no means a total failure, The Fifth Estate nonetheless disappoints with its toothless approach. This is an important story which somehow never feels like one, no matter how much dreary music swells beneath the action. After two hours the film has said nothing new and you’ll be the one needing a leak.


Words Dan Meier

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