The Fifth Estate
Director: Bill Condon
Thankfully not painting Julian Assange as an idealistic do-gooder worthy of lionizing, Condon’s look at the rise, tarnishing, and partial dismantling of WikiLeaks gets off to a bit of a rough start before settling into a thrilling and nuanced character drama with some great performances.
Focusing largely on the relationship between the egomaniacal, but tirelessly advocating Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his often reluctant and constantly tested second in command, Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl), Condon’s film feels needlessly like “WikiLeaks’ Greatest Hits for the first 45 minutes or so.” His stylish gambit of Paul Greengrass style fast-cutting and lines of code flashing across the screen is kind of gimmicky in the opening, but quickly abandoned.
Once the film gets to the Bradley Manning cables, though, things get quite exciting and the power play between the two colleagues takes centre stage. Although a subplot about the government agents looking into Assanges work slows things down and adds little, the cast brings a lot to the table, and Condon doesn’t leave the nastier elements of Assange’s life go unnoticed.
Also, while Cumberbatch is great as the sneering, posturing Assange, the film belongs to Bruhl and his soulful performance. His character seems capable of doing more good in a more ethical fashion than the group’s figurehead. (Andrew Parker)