Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Movie with Abe: The Fifth Estate

The Fifth Estate
Directed by Bill Condon
Released October 18, 2013

It’s undeniable that WikiLeaks has had a transformative effect on how news and information are processed and relayed to the public in the current age. Therefore, bringing the story of the two people who had the ideology and made the website happen to the screen seems like an excellent plan. The translation doesn’t work, however, mainly due to the fact that, in great contrast to the ingenuity and technical innovation for which Julian Assange and Daniel Berg are famous, the film feels hopelessly familiar and uncreative, employing dated devices to make it feel hip and relevant when it’s actually anything but that.

From its opening moments, “The Fifth Estate” suffers from an extreme case of overconfidence, adopting the personality and outlook of its eccentric founder, Assange. As portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in a maniacal imitation, Assange is convinced that he is the smartest person he could ever meet, and purports to rely on no one for assistance. He certainly doesn’t ask for help, instead content to demand compliance from those he considers inferior to him – everyone – and then deny them the credit later. Berg, by contrast, is hopelessly devoted to Assange, always eager to please him at the expense of his own livelihood and self-confidence. Their relationship seems unhealthy at best, and Assange is cast as the indisputable villain, his fight for the openness of information paling in comparison to the excessive size of his ego.

“The Fifth Estate” is designed as a thriller, one which tries to tell its story in a showy, technological fashion. Displaying chat messages onscreen and scrolling text along moving walkways is far from fresh, and it does the film a considerable disservice. While some gripping stories are hinted at, other interesting components are skipped over altogether, and the content feels far from complete. The film is framed much like “The Social Network,” with two men positioned as the creators of a monumental idea, with one hogging the credit for himself (both are based on books by the one who is denied the credit, for the record), but displays none of the same editing and cinematography techniques that made that film so great. WikiLeaks seems worthy of being told in cinematic fashion, but this subpar drama, which creates intrigue in a less than compelling way, is not what it deserves. Respected British actor Cumberbatch and German actor Daniel Bruhl would do well to move this film to the bottom of their resumes, and to try to use their talents for more quality projects in the future.


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