I would start this review by saying that the review is spoiler free, but of course, it is based on real events. The film in question is Bill Condon's new film The Fifth Estate, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl as Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg respectively. While many reviews of the film haven't been massively positive - the film has a rating of 42% on Rotten Tomatoes - I would take this with a pinch of salt. Compared with the last film that I reviewed (Prisoners, which scored a respectable 81%) I feel that this one is better, as it was much more concise and satisfying.
This is the synopsis of the film taken from IMDB:
The story begins as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) team up to become underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful. On a shoestring, they create a platform that allows whistle-blowers to anonymously leak covert data, shining a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes. Soon, they are breaking more hard news than the world's most legendary media organizations combined. But when Assange and Berg gain access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in U.S. history, they battle each other and a defining question of our time: what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society-and what are the costs of exposing them?
In terms of acting, the cast is generally solid and convincing throughout the film. For me, the stand-out performance comes from lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch - although admittedly, there is some slight personal bias (he is one of my favourite actors). Assange's Australian accent is done very well by Cumberbatch, and he manages to juggle the accent with a solid performance. The result is a multi-layered portrayal of a controversial character, as the audience's response ranges from sympathetic to shocked, sometimes within the space of a scene.
The cinematography and the editing of this film make it visually stunning. The way in which the technology is integrated into the visuals means that the clunky close-up shots of mobile phones and computers are rarely used. Instead and rather fittingly, a Sherlock-esque approach is taken, where the messages appear next to the characters. The visual splendour of the film means that when the plot begins to slow down a little, there is something to keep you focused on watching. There are particular scenes where more of a metaphorical approach to revealing or reinforcing information is taken, which is done by creating an imaginary office space. As someone who studies literature, I found the symbolism and metaphors used in these scenes as very interesting and unique ways of conveying a message to the audience.
Criticism-wise, I would say that there was perhaps a lack of depth with regards to some of the portrayals. Aside from Assange, there is little back story or development for many of the characters in the film, as it focuses more on the consequences of their actions rather than the people behind them. With that being said, additional development and detail would of course add additional length to the two-hour run time, and would probably stagnate the plot.
Overall, I found the film to be surprisingly enjoyable to watch - given the mediocre reviews and the concept of a documentary feature film, I was a little apprehensive about watching it. I will say that I don't think that The Fifth Estate will be everyone's cup of tea, as it is quite detail heavy and there isn't a great deal of action.
For anyone that is interested in the film, here is the official trailer...
I hope you have enjoyed reading this review - let me know in the comments if you've seen The Fifth Estate and what you thought of it.
- Kate Shortt -