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THE FIFTH ESTATE is based on two books, both written by people who had
personal and legal disputes with WikiLeaks.
These are personally biased sources and are now outdated by three years. They tell only one side of the story.
These authors had an interest in portraying Julian Assange as dishonest or manipulative for competitive, personal and legal reasons.
It is hard to imagine how a film which aims to dramatize only their version of events could genuinely aspire to being fair or accurate.
The film does not tell the story Julian Assange or WikiLeaks staff such as Sarah Harrison, Joseph Farrell or Kristinn Hrafnsson would tell. Hopefully, soon, their story too can be told.
As I walked into the theater with my wife, she asked me again what this
film was about. I said, its about Wikileaks. I told her about Assange
and the mission of Wikileaks. I had already had my own formed opinions
about Assange, but refrained from sharing it with her. I was curious to
see what her reaction was and what her opinion of Wikileaks and Assange
was after the film.
The film was not bad. It was sort of an attempt to make a Facebook style film about Wikileaks and although it nowhere measured up to the quality of "Social Network." Its attempt was commendable and all-in-all, it was not a waste of the 18 Euros we spent to see it.
However, what really bothered me throughout the entire film was Cumberbatch's portrayal of Assange. I could see he was trying very hard to mimic Assange to the best of his ability, but I either don't think he had it in him or he was purposely playing Assange a lot crazier than he appears in real life. I have seen lots of interviews with Assange, who in my mind, comes across a bit like a mixture between a politician and professor. Cumberbatch, on the other hand, came across as a sort of eccentric nut.
The next thing that bothered me is where the film decided to stop. Basically, it skimmed over the current scandals, making Assange sound like more of nut than Cumberbatch's portrayal. The last five minutes especially sunk into me the feeling that the film unfairly portrayed Assange.
And my suspicions were confirmed. I asked my wife what her opinion of Assange was as a good or bad guy, and she seemed to indicate she was leaning towards bad. The last few minutes of the film, basically sunk that message in loud and clear.
My conclusion is, that, this film is a good example of the new way of being critical. Pretend to be fair and at the last minute, throw up a bunch of negative facts.
I believe that combining the positive portrayal of the U.S. state department with the crazy portrayal of Assange, was neither fair nor accurate. History will probably judge this film as just another propaganda piece of the corrupt powers that be.
If I were to write this film, I think it would have been much more interesting to concentrate on the incidents of human rights abuses rather than on the Assange himself. It would have also had the positive effect of encouraging, rather than discouraging whistle-blowers. This film does not seem to inspire anything.
Assange was right about the film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've written about why this is ghastly dreck at much greater length on
CounterPunch, but I'll summarize here: If Walt Disney were alive today,
the notorious right-winger would be delighted at the latest volley his
namesake company has lobbed in the U.S. war on whistleblowers.
Wikileaks has written at some length about the raging factual inaccuracies in this 'docudrama', but the flick has more than Wikileaks in its sights. The film's broad themes undergird the same sorts of distortions that have been used to dirty up whistleblowers and information freedom advocates who include Stratfor whistleblower Jeremy Hammond, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowdon, the late, great tech innovator and DemandProgress founder Aaron Swartz, and CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou. Namely: uncensored primary source material is bad, because dammit, how the heck can we control the information stream and the spin in the face of those nasty primary source materials?
Among its fantasy characters, TFE includes the racist stereotype of the 'good Arab' asset of State Department hacks -- a particularly appalling fiction that reinforces the wholly bogus notion that Wikileaks' release of State Department cables 'hurt our allies.' No, it didn't. To date, the U.S. government has utterly failed to document a single instance of 'harm' coming to a single one of its on-the-ground thugs, informants, collaborators or spies.
I saw this at a free screening hosted by the Chicago ACLU. Good thing their development director opened the event by announcing that they hadn't yet seen the flick and the event should by no means be construed as an endorsement of the film. Save your dough -- or better yet, check out Wikileaks' new documentary, Mediastan, which rather nicely documents the mainstream media's congenital unwillingness to speak truth to power.
The Fifth Estate is a film that's bound to attract a considerable
amount of controversy and end up with a fairly divisive crowd, and
that's basically why you're witnessing the overwhelming negative
reception from critics. Ultimately, bias will sweep in and largely
contribute to your final thoughts on the film, essentially depending on
what side you're on. Admittedly, this picture paints a villainous image
for Julian Assange, especially as the plot progresses, and a plethora
of reviewers apparently took issue with that, including Mr. Julian
Assange himself. Well, there are also those critics that post their
extremely vague negative responses to the film that don't exactly
address a particular fault within the movie's content and definitely
produce a sense of shadiness in terms of what exactly drove them so
crazy over its material.
Anyways, let's focus on my reaction to the feature in general with as much honesty as possible. I won't lecture you on how much you should hate the NSA and the government's surveillance activities nor should I protest such anarchists' decisions. I'll judge the film as it should be judged, but of course, the level of its accuracy should absolutely be considered. Concentrating on the strengths at first, right off the bat, it's quite obvious just how exceptional the lead performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl are, and as usual, Cumberbatch carries that impressive volume of charisma with him where you simply can't take your eyes off his mannerisms and speech (I believe I already noted this in my Star Trek review); in short, his portrayal of Julian Assange is terrifically veracious. Daniel Bruhl, coming off of his memorable performance in Rush, makes his mark yet again, playing a foil to Julian in a way. Furthermore, The Fifth Estate unquestionably works as a full-fledged thriller with the several twists and turns throughout. The story, itself, is compelling and though it's abundantly filled with journalistic terminology and complicated concepts, you're forced to dedicate twice the attention to the screen.
On that note, The Fifth Estate suffers from a highly noticeable and detrimental flaw: its messy execution. What fundamentally follows persistently throughout the narrative are perplexing scenes that leave the audience scratching their head- and not in a good way in case you're asking. The movie's editing style and script will doubtlessly leave you confused in numerous instances. While you're attempting to understand how exactly a specific action or trade works, the film casts you into another situation that leaves you baffled yet again, and this really stems from- as previously mentioned- its wide array of terminology and the fast pace with which it irresponsibly deals with its explanation to the moviegoers. This is precisely why The Social Network shone in its brilliance: it was perfectly comprehensible and continued with remarkable execution- the pure opposite of The Fifth Estate. By the time the story comes to a conclusion, you will have likely properly sorted the film's ideas but to have a thriller work is to avoid placing your interested crowd into a muddled and jumbled predicament as it lessens the satisfaction and surprise that comes with a thrilling experience.
At the end of the day, The Fifth Estate is great in that it sparks a mixed reaction and requires both extreme sides of the table to continuously argue over the rightfulness or criminality of Wikileaks' existence and the path that Julian Assange took to see it to success. There are too many factors to just definitively point out if you should or shouldn't view it. However, if you're not one for complicated, fast- paced political thrillers, this probably won't be an enjoyable time at the movies. Otherwise, there might be something here that'll get you thinking about the whole debacle of our privacy vs. the so-called "evil government."
I tend not to read reviews until after I've watched a film lest they
sway my opinion, but it wasn't hard to miss the nonchalance (that veers
towards damnation) with which The Fifth Estate has been received. Nor
that it plays just once per day, at 9pm, at my local Cineworld compared
to five screenings per day for Captain Phillips, eight for Ender's Game
and fourteen for Thor: The Dark World.
But Bill Condon's (Gods and Monsters, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn) film about Wikileaks founder and hero/pariah (delete according to your political stance) Julian Assange really isn't that bad. Take that as you will.
Not really a biopic, The Fifth Estate takes a similar approach to Assange as The Social Network did with Mark Zuckerberg, looking more at the product of the man than the man himself. It consumes 8 minutes more of your time than The Social Network, feels twice as long, is far more arduous and will require just a single viewing, compared to repeat visits for the Facebook flick.
Trudging through the meeting of the ultimate whistleblower Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Daniel Berg (Daniel Brühl), the explosion of Wikileaks in the public's perception, the shadowy deals with The Guardian and the fall out from countless exposés about underhand dealings from governments and corporations, The Fifth Estate spews out a huge amount of information but never quite manages to get down to the gritty truth.
It feels cluttered and more of a lecture than a movie and I'm not sure I know a great deal more about Assange now than I did yesterday. Too much has been shoehorned into its 128 minute running time but it still only glances over some of the highest profile matters surrounding Assange: the Bradley/Chelsea Manning revelations and the sexual misconduct allegation against Assange that have led to his exile in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Cumberbatch succeeds admirably in portraying Assange as an obsessive with a serious case of egotism and a lack of social graces or personal care. It's a fine performance and will be a revelation to those who know Cumberbatch only from BBC's Sherlock or Star Trek Into Darkness. He is eminently watchable and succeeds in making an unpleasant man fascinating to watch. Assange wrote an open letter to Cumberbatch hoping to dissuade him from portraying him on film in The Fifth Estate, a "wretched" film, a work of fiction "based on a deceitful book", and one imagines that, should a copy of the film reach him inside his 'prison' he'll be dismayed by the way he is portrayed. Perhaps he'll be magnanimous to concede that, nevertheless, it is a fine performance from Cumberbatch.
Many of the other prominent actors don't fare quite as well. Brühl follows up his superb performance in Rush with a more downbeat character that he never really sinks his teeth into. Like Brühl, Alicia Vikander, Berg's love interest and just one of many thorns in Assange's side, has little to play with and her performance is smothered by the presence of Assange.
Bucking the trend, David Thewlis gives a pastiche of a Guardian journalist, more given to flouncing noisily into meetings and huffing in exasperation than acting. But Thewlis' performance is evened out by able turns from the new Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi, Laura Linney and Stanley Tucci, though with so many characters vying for screen time and Condon battling to squeeze in as much information as possible alongside some outdated 80s techniques (text across faces, anyone?), they, too are lost in the mêlée.
The Fifth Estate isn't a great film and it may not be terribly truthful (the jury's still out on that one) but, despite it's flaws, I still enjoyed it. Once! And maybe truthful representations aren't important. As Cumberbatch wrote in his response to Assange, " the film should provoke debate and not consensus."
And in that, at least, The Fifth Estate succeeds admirably.
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I know I'm in the minority, but I liked "The Fifth Estate." Others will
agree with me, though, that the best thing about it is Benedict
Cumberbatch, who does brilliant job as Julian Assange.
I come at this film from a slightly different point of view because I still don't know what was so fabulous about "The Social Network." I understand the comparisons due to the similar stories. People seemed to find "The Social Network" incredibly compelling, but I guess it's a generational thing - I just didn't.
I attended this film with a friend who had only a vague knowledge of Wikileaks, and he absolutely loved it and found the "redaction" scenes toward the end of the film tense and suspenseful, as I did.
I realize that some of the film may be fictional, and that Wikileaks is a controversial subject. I can't pretend to know the truth. Cumberbatch portrays Assange as an egomaniacal, protective, arrogant man who refuses to compromise, even when information may hurt people. His right hand, Daniel (Daniel Bruhl) begins to see that Assange's dictatorial attitude and paranoia has gone too far and is actually in the long run going to hurt what could have been an important organization.
What should we know, and when should we know it? Assange wants to release unedited documents onto the World Wide Web. Yet in the beginning of the film, he wants at all costs to protect sources. He seems to forget that later on. That's all in the film, based on two books that we're told are biased.
Still, The Fifth Estate raises some interesting questions and also talks about the challenges we face now with news going out onto the Internet. I think some transparency is healthy; I don't think banks should help customers cheat the U.S. out of $30 billion in taxes; but I don't believe military strategy should be leaked, and I believe that sources should be protected. It seems like so much of what we hear today, from politicians and celebrities and publicists is "spin." And most of us are aware that there's more than they're telling us.
As far as the acting, Laura Linney and Stanley Tucci are marvelous in small roles; Cumberbatch gets excellent support from Bruhl, Alicia Vikander, Jamie Blackley, and the rest of the cast.
In short, Cumberbatch's performance should be seen and appreciated. I think this film has gotten a bad rap. It's certainly not an awful film.
You know what they say you wait for a bus and then two come along at
once. After causing a media frenzy in recent years, Julian Assange and
his whistleblowing website WikiLeaks have found their way to the big
screen this year, twice. Earlier in the year, the documentary
'WikiLeaks: We Steal Secrets' was released to highly positive reviews
and a lengthy complaint from Assange himself. Now, we have Bill
Condon's dramatic (and according to some, heavily fictionalised)
account of the history of the now-infamous website and its founder.
Similarly to aforementioned documentary, 'The Fifth Estate' has notably
been objected by Assange, who wrote to lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch
outlining why he shouldn't take the role or have any part in the film.
Despite this, Cumberbatch didn't, instead delivering an excellent and
nuanced performance that never feels like an impersonation. On the
flipside, Cumberbatch is far-and-away the best thing in the film.
That's not to imply that 'The Fifth Estate' is a bad film by any means, it's just that it's regularly flat and occasionally boring. Many have compared it to David Fincher's 2010 masterpiece 'The Social Network' and the similarities do exist (the foundation of a revolutionary website involving two different people who eventually fall out over said site), but the difference is that this film lacks the spark and most importantly, the compelling dialogue of the latter. When making a film such as this centred on dialogue, it is imperative to make the talk as gripping as possible, but despite trying their best, the conversations here are only sporadically attention-grabbing. Additionally, the sequences set inside the 'cyberspace' feel out-of-place and don't work at all.
The film has good intentions and attempts to raise some interesting questions, as it successfully manages not to show favour to any side of the WikiLeaks argument, even going so as far as questioning the film itself, as we see Cumberbatch's Assange dismissing it in an interview. As well as Cumberbatch, Daniel Brühl is very good as Assange's partner Daniel Domscheit-Berg, while David Thewlis is as usual, a pleasure to watch, here playing the best on screen Guardian journalist since Paddy Considine in 'The Bourne Ultimatum'. Overall though, the film is not as good as its star it's a plodding and unremarkable account of one of the biggest new stories in recent history.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In July 2010, the website WikiLeaks released over 90,000 secret United
States military reports about the war going on in Afghanistan. This was
one of the largest leaks in United States history, on par with the
Watergate scandal during the 1970s under President Nixon. One man was
responsible - Julian Assange. The Fifth Estate, partially based on a
book written by Assange's former partner, Daniel Berg, titled: Inside
WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous
Website, details the history of WikiLeaks from when Berg and Assange
first met back in 2007, to when the 90,000+ documents were released.
For those who don't know, WikiLeaks was a whistleblower organization - a website where confidential documents were posted online, and secrets were revealed. Portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch, Julian Assange took it upon himself to decide that there should be no secrets from the people, and that he exposed confidential files for the greater good. Assange is made out to be a Robin Hood-like person, except instead of stealing the king's riches for the poor, he is exposing secrets the world does not necessarily need to know.
Assange and Berg, played by Daniel Brühl, meet at a computer convention, where the two became friends and Assange let Berg in on his website. Working to release files, Assange and Berg quickly grew WikiLeaks into a household name. Oscar Wilde once said: "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth." Assange recites this to Berg, stating that WikiLeaks' mission is to protect the identity of whistleblowers. He says that he spent years working on a system that guarantees anonymity for their sources, and Berg believes him. Things, believe it or not, go smoothly, until two of Assange's sources are gunned down, causing a rift between him and Berg, and spelling trouble for WikiLeaks.
The motto of WikiLeaks was: "Courage is Contagious." Sadly, the movie is not contagious. The movie is, in fact, dull and uninvesting. I found myself often losing focus, and even struggling to not walk out of the theater. Even though it is based on actual events, the plot of the movie is boring and uninteresting. Often times, the movie is quite confusing, jumping from one leak, to personal troubles in Berg's life, to another leak, to problems in the United States government, and then back to another leak. It is very difficult to invest in these characters, as there is so much jumping around it is hard to keep track of who is doing what. One of the few interesting aspects of the movie was the fact that the majority of it was focused on Daniel Berg, NOT Julian Assange, which makes sense seeing as the movie was based on the book by Berg, however this results in viewers jumping right into an already established WikiLeaks, instead of seeing it being built from the ground up.
With that being said, Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Julian Assange is mediocre at best. In the film, Cumberbatch's Assange does not come off as a person who is passionate about his cause, which is a problem because it was established that Assange had set out to change the world. Instead, the character comes off as a man who is working at a simple nine-to-five job, uninterested in what he is doing. A positive that comes out of Cumberbatch's performance is that the character development from beginning to end is clear and noticeable, while Daniel Brühl's performance is lackluster - there is zero indication of character development in Berg, even though the story makes it clear that there should be.
Directed by Bill Condon, The Fifth Estate does not do WikiLeaks justice. For a website that made such an impact on the world as it did, it at least deserves a movie that does something similar. Instead we are given a mediocre movie that, in my opinion, is not worth seeing.
Rating: 3 of 10 Check out more of our reviews at: brickmoviereviews.wordpress.com !
Even to the way Assange ties his scarf this film is complete
make-believe, and is probably best given a wide berth for those
interested in what really happened regarding the leaked US embassy
I've just watched Mediastan, which is a road movie recounting the distribution of the cables across central Asia and the obstacles encountered: geographical, political, security, and media. It's a riveting and at times amusing journey - and an education. For serious insights into how the global media world currently operates, I'd wholeheartedly recommend it.
So, honestly, forget The Fifth Estate, and the rest of the Hollywood hype; Mediastan is the real story of Cablegate and Operation Cable Run.
The Fifth Estate
Plot In his quest to make information free for everyone whistle blower Julian Assange takes on the kingpins of the world by raging a sophisticated ,new age war that threatens to shake the foundations of diplomacy and overthrow established regimes .It tells the story behind the rise and fall of wiki leaks and of its creator ;Julian Assange who some people call a visionary and some a threat to national security .The story revolves around the complex character of Assange and explores his relationship with Daniel Berg ,one of the spokespersons for Wikileaks.
Script The Fifth estate is loosely based on the book "Inside WikiLeaks" by Daniel berg and uses real life examples as key points to narrate the story. The script is to the point, taut and close to reality but it never becomes more than that. It feels like a monotonous narration of the book with no elements of a thriller that it promised to be. If the makers wanted a boring narration of the events that are already available online why did make all the efforts to make a movie and waste a talent like Mr Cumberbatch?
The script is written to explore the association of Assange and Berg but fails to do so and only creates a one dimensional sketch of a Multidimensional relationship. Other parts of the movie are outwardly boring and dimensionless which makes it a Prime time News at max when the viewers expected a thrilling and insightful leak into the life of one of the most Controversial public figures of the 21st Century.
Direction Its Difficult to understand why Bill Condon was chosen as a director for such a controversial public figure (Mr Condon is the director of Twilight :Breaking Dawn 1 and 2, Now you get it ,right?).His lack of control of the story and the essence of Julian Assange's character is visible throughout the 128 minutes , his lack of understanding of the character is the prime reason why this movie fails to hit the right chords.
Performances Benedict Cumberbatch is the reason why you should watch this movie is watchable throughout its runtime.The expression, body language ,non- verbal cues are exactly like Julian Assanges.
Though Assange refused to meet when benedict requested him so that he could understand him better ,citing faults in the script which he disapproved, still he managed to bring such a complex character to life on screen with panache .He is one of the most exemplary actors of this modern world of cinema.
Final Word The only reason why you may want to watch the movie is Benedict Cumberbatch. Except for him the movie is a dull replay of events we already know off, this isn't the movie that Julian Assange deserves. If You are interested to know about Mr Assange I suggest you watch "We Steal Secrets" by Alex Gibney, that is at least honest in delivering what it promises.
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