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THE FIFTH ESTATE
DIRECTOR: Bill Condon
CAST: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Brühl, David Thewlis, Anatole Taubman, Dan Stevens, Alexander Beyer
CLASSIFICATION: 13 LSV
RUNNING TIME: 129 minutes
ECUADORIAN Embassy squatter Julian Assange need not have got so hot under the collar about this film; it would have scuppered itself.
This is the film Assange was asking people to boycott, to the point where he even asked Benedict Cumberbatch not to act in the film because he (Assange) thought it was just going to put him in a bad light. Though the film does not paint him in a flattering light at all, it is unfortunately rather boring, despite having a good director at the helm.
Bill Condon (of Gods and Monsters) gets an interesting and nuanced performance out of Cumberbatch, but that is not enough to make the film either dramatic or thrilling.
We already know the story of Wikileaks, the whistleblowing website created by Assange, which helped to solidify the concept of internet-based reporting as the fifth estate, the natural progres- sion from print journalism as the fourth estate.
But watching the “and then, and then, and then” play out as laptop conversations between Assange and his geeky colleague, Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Brühl), lead up to Assange holing up in the embassy, there is nothing engrossing about that. The story is by its nature unexciting – we already know the what, if we want to watch a biopic about the guy then we want the why.
Cumberbatch captures the mannerisms and quirks with his performance. He ably hints at a personality that borders on Asperger’s Syndrome, or at the very least has a twitchy relationship with boundaries and social conventions. Alluding to Assange’s childhood – which included a stint in a cult which did not like the idea of secrets – he creates a character who draws a line in the sand about what he thinks is right and does not budge an inch.
We watch Assange travel around the world with just a backpack and a computer, trawling around conventions of geeks, airports and beautiful cities in the dead of night.
By the time he makes it to the Guardian newspaper’s offices we’ve come full circle to the first scene, but we are still in the dark about exactly why. Plus, what is the point of painting him as a selfish git and hitting the audience over the head with the idea?
If you liked The Ides of March you will like this.