The Fifth Estate

By James Sabata


For anyone who paid attention to the real Julian Assange or his Wikileaks website as it disclosed information and provided a supposed safe-haven for whistle blowers, The Fifth Estate appears to be a movie one can’t miss. Providing an insider’s look at the quest to expose corruption at the highest levels, including major banks and even the United States Government, The Fifth Estate is based on books by Daniel Domscheit-Berg. One a very tight budget without an actual staff, Domsheit-Berg helped Julian Assange take Wikileaks from theory to reality. The movie follows the story from the time Berg joins forces with Assange up to the point where they part ways over an ethical question: Should all secrets be revealed, regardless of the cost?

Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Assange is spot on. He creates a believable look into the mind of one of the oddest characters to so far grace the 21st century. Daniel Bruhl’s portrayal of Daniel Domscheit-Berg may not resonate the same way in the viewer’s mind following the film, but there is nothing wrong with his delivery. In fact, the acting of these two men is pretty much the only reason to see this film.

The Fifth Estate does not deliver an ending, let alone living up to the thriller that it fancies itself to be. There are many long drawn out parts in the film, which seem to have been created to be artsy rather than to fully play into the story. A scene with hundreds of Julian’s is almost reminiscient of Being John Malkovich, but the point it was trying to convey had already been beaten to death by the dialogue leading up to it.

I fear that one of the biggest problems with a movie like this is that not enough time has passed to really have an ending to the film. The people have not yet made up their minds how they feel about Julian Assange, and as such, I’m not convinced the screenwriter had made up his. The view changes throughout the entire film, sometimes hailing Assange as a Christ-like figure, come to save free speech one second to being a misunderstood child in an adult’s body to being a compulsive liar. While the film does do a good job following Berg as he transitions through these feelings, it does not do enough to tell the audience if that is what it was going for.

Finally, the final scene is just Cumberbatch speaking to the camera and almost negates the rest of the film by making him seem like a caricature of himself. It left me wondering why this scene was included.

The true story of Wikileaks is one that is interesting, full of intrigue and suspense, and truly raises hard questions for society to come to grips with. This movie works hard to jam in all the questions, but fails to shed any light on the answers. I’m not sure if that was purposeful or if there simply wasn’t enough space in the two hour run time. Perhaps this story would have been better served in a miniseries.

2.5 out of 5.0