Friday, October 18

REVIEW: The Fifth Estate

Directed by Bill Condon
2013 Drama
2 hours 8 minutes
From Tristar & Dreamworks

Benedict Cumberbatch
Daniel Brühl
David Thewlis
Carice van Houten
Laura Linney
Stanley Tucci
Anthony Mackie
Dan Stevens

There's a tagline from one of the movie's posters that reads you can't expose the world's secrets without exposing a few of your own.  I'd say that just about covers it.  Here comes the inevitable story of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and as the world news was reporting how he exposed U.S. intelligence documents, we knew this had movie written all over it.

And it's a good one.  Based on the previews I'd seen, I remembered thinking I would probably be reminded of All the President's Men if it were done today.  And now that I have indeed seen it, I must agree with myself.  I would call this a thriller simply due to its cat and mouse shenanigans with our protagonists hurrying out of places before the other side nabs them.  But it is a thinking man's thriller.  Regrettably for some, there are no car crashes.  Should you be completely computer-savvy or hey, a hacker (my lips are sealed), you may find this film to be quite the little thriller.  For others, there will probably be a little too much technobabble and not enough romance.

Some might recognize Assange from his hair and some might remember him for those rape charges coming out of Sweden.  But in between all that there is his story which involved Assange taking on the weighty assignment of becoming the world's guardian of truth and justice.  He wanted to bring transparency to corporate and government practices and to expose its secretive underbelly.  He would provide the platform for whistleblowers to come forward anonymously and tell their lurid tales.

When he exposed U.S. military and diplomatic documents in 2010, the scandal surrounding him seemed like the news event of the century.  There were some knickers twisted pretty badly in Washington and regular people were taking all sorts of sides.

He didn't do this all alone.  Early on Assange teamed up with Daniel Domscheit-Berg and the film is really their story despite Assange assuming the greater notoriety.  Toward the end of the film, the two men have some different ideas about how things are going and that forms the basis for the film's finale.

The film is, in fact, based on two books from people who not only knew Assange personally (Domscheit-Berg being one of them) but have lawsuits pending against him, so one might question what sort of fair reporting was done here.  Assange is not portrayed as a particularly nice man, which, of course, may still be true, but I, at least, keep in mind that ex-friends are doing the talking.  I did see the real Assange on the tube a couple of days ago bum-rapping the movie.

The two leads, Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl are both outstanding.  I would say it's fair that they are both unknown to most Americans.  Perhaps this film will change that.  Cumberbatch has a face made for the camera.  He portrays menace and its many shadings with spell-binding dispatch.  He shoots some looks at Brühl that made me bite my knuckles.

Bill Condon hit a bullseye or near bullseye in most all areas.  He certainly helped to create the pace and the timing and to get the most out of his actors, cinematographer and editing.  You may know his work if you've seen Gods and Monsters, Kinsey, Dreamgirls and the first two Twlight installments. Good job here, Bill, good job.

I highly recommend if for no other reason than it's all about the world we read and hear about today.  In our age of high-stakes privacy and secrecy, this was a fascinating telling.

The Directors

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