The Fifth Estate

True life movies, which are stories based on real events, have been picking up a lot of steam at the box office lately. Just last week, “Captain Phillips” did very well at in its opening weekend, pulling in more than $25 million. However, when these movies come out, there are some people, usually the people who were involved with the real story, who decry these movies to be inaccurate and far off from the truth. Many of the real life crew members that were with Captain Phillips said he acted recklessly and is not the grand hero the movie makes him out to be. The daughter of baseball player Fritz Ostermueller did not like seeing her father portrayed as a racist earlier this year in “42”, claiming he was not that kind of person and Mark Zuckerberg was not the biggest fan of “The Social Network”. Today, October 18, is the release of “The Fifth Estate” which focuses on the rise of the website, WikiLeaks and it’s founder, Julian Assange. It came as no surprise that Assange denounced the movie, but he does not have to worry much, the movie is pretty bad.

Unlike “The Social Network” which showed how Facebook first started up, WikiLeaks is already up and running when we first meet Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) in “The Fifth Estate”. The movie picks up when he first meets WikiLeaks former spokesperson, Daniel Berg (Daniel Brühl). Together they turn a website almost no one noticed into one that got international attention when it helped bring down the corruption at the Julius Bär bank and to the massive cover ups surrounding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Benedict Cumberbatch has been getting high praise for his portrayal of Assange in “The Fifth Estate” and it is well deserved. He got his look down perfectly and you almost believe Julian stepped out of his protective asylum to play the role himself. The acting is solid throughout the cast. The movie also stars David Thewlis, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci and Anthony Mackie.

This is where the admiration for “The Fifth Estate” ends. The movie is a real chore to sit through. Unlike movies such as “Captain Phillips”, “Argo” and even “Apollo 13” where we know how the movie ends, but the filmmakers still manage to keep audiences at the edge of their seats and involved, this movie never manages to do so for one moment. The ones who have to carry the bulk of this blame has to be screenwriter, Josh Singer, who turned in a real boring adaptation. He actually took two books and turned them into one script and he obviously had trouble bringing a balance to the finished work. Also, this is his first foray in writing for the big screen. He usually writes, and excels, writing for television. It’s understandable why someone gave him a shot.

Director Bill Condon must burden the rest of what went wrong with “The Fifth Estate”. Even when he tries to create tension in the movie, like when someone is trying to make an escape, you will just want to fully sit back in your seat. There is never a need to move your butt up to the edge of it. Maybe working on the final two Twilight movies stymied some of his creativity. He also employs shots of symbolic imagery, which is supposed to represent the network that is WikiLeaks. All he winds up doing with those shots is confusing some members of the audience, but all it really shows is the lack of depth this movie possesses by filling it with these “creative” moments. To top it all off, the editing is often disjointed and the soundtrack feels like it belongs by something produced by MTV.

It’s understandable why Julian Assange is unhappy with “The Fifth Estate” as the movie winds up portraying him as a man ultimately driven by ego and not caring about the consequences of his actions. This is the type of movie you really want to get caught up in, but just never do. Yet, the movie does spark an interesting debate when you walk out. Those who saw an advanced screening of it at the Frank Theaters in Delray Market Place all were discussing whether a site like WikiLeaks should be posting the secrets they did, no matter what the cost. Ultimately, it is about seeking out the truth for yourself rather than relying on what others tells you. It is a good message to convey, it’s just a shame it was not attached to a more entertaining or inspiriting movie. This was neither. It is rated R for language and some violence.