Movie Review: The Fifth Estate

Title: The Fifth Estate
Released: October 2013 (UK)
Director: Bill Condon
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Peter Capaldi, Stanley Tucci, David Thewlis

It’s been a very long time since I saw a movie in the cinema that made me want to rush home so I could post my review online as soon as possible. The Fifth Estate made me do this. In fact, as I type this, I’m barely in the door ten minutes and I haven’t even finished putting my PJs on but I’m already typing this up.

This movie is just fantastic. I know it looked great in the trailers, but the movie is much, much better than you think it’s going to be. As a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch I was looking forward to seeing him on the big screen again, but I couldn’t have imagined how wonderful his performance as Julian Assange would be. I know the writers obviously play a large part, but really, there is no other actor that could have portrayed Assange as perfectly as Cumberbatch did. And Daniel Bruhl as Daniel Berg was just brilliant – I know he was good in Rush, but after this movie? Yeah, he’s well and truly on my top 20 list of the greatest actors ever.

What makes this movie so brilliant, is it doesn’t work at making Assange out to be this wonderful person, this man of the people. Actually, in fact, the movie shows Assange for what he was. He was a man who was fighting to bring ‘fatcats’ to justice, to bring down governments that were more or less screwing over their people. However, he was also, well, a bit of an asshole. He was egotistical, a liar, and a manipulator. This movie makes light of all this traits. Of course, the movie is based on the book by Daniel Berg, and Assange even refused to meet with Benedict Cumberbatch (although he was rather gracious in his decline) because he believed the movie to be filled with false information. This is up to us to make our minds up, I guess (though really, I feel like I’d believe Berg over Assange any day of the week).

Through the movie, we get to see the whole timeline of Wikileaks, from Berg joining Assange to Cablegate. Watching their relationship grow and deteriorate is a little emotional, because you can see how much Daniel idolises Julian, and Julian knows it and abuses his power. In fact, throughout the whole movie you just watch as Julian abuses the trust people place in him, and you watch him more or less bully those around him. He takes what should be a type of ‘power to the people’ kind of situation and he uses it to his own advantage, to make himself feel powerful. By the end of the movie you can’t help but feel that whilst it started out justly and righteous, it became a power kick. I think this is all more or less confirmed at the very end of the film when we see Cumberbatch be interviewed as Assange, and he states it was a mistake to ‘hire’ Berg, and whilst I haven’t seen the real interview, I do wonder if he managed to fit his ego in the door.

One thing that I’m glad wasn’t focused on but was brought up (even if it was at the very end) is the sexual misconduct allegations that were brought against Julian Assange. Whilst I don’t know the full details, I’ve always been under the impression this was more or less to tarnish his reputation. I mean, his whole mission was to bring down governments, and it isn’t hard for said governments to lie about people, is it? They do it every day, so I don’t find it hard to believe that this could be a lie to bring him down, because the way the legal systems work, if he is sent to Iceland to face trial, even if he’s found not guilty, he’ll then be shipped to the US to face charges for Cablegate, so in the end the US government get what they want, right? Again, this is an opinion I’ve always held, and I liked that the movie addressed it in this way too. Another part of the ‘interview’ that made the movie that litte bit better was watching Cumberbatch (as Assange) talk about how bad a movie on wikileaks would be and how full of false information it would be.

I think, over all, this movie is rather powerful. Whether or not you agree with wikileaks, or whether or not you hate Assange, this movie is a powerful piece of cinema. In fact, I feel like the movie makes you feel like you should do more, like you should pay more attention to politics. The older I got, the more invested in politics and governments I became, and this story is inspirational to the ‘ordinary’ person, because you can make a difference, you CAN make things change.

I’m genuinely blown away by how fantastic this movie was, and I am so, so glad it showed wikileask, Julian Assange, and even Daniel Berg from every angle. We saw the good they did, the hope and justice they brought to people, but we also saw the bad, the manipulation, the lies, and the danger that an organisation like this can bring about.