Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Fifth Estate (Movie Review)

The best thing, worst thing, and main thing about the wiki-leaks movie "The Fifth Estate" in about the time it takes to watch the trailer.



 The man with the memorable name gives yet another memorable performance.
“The Fifth Estate” is director Bill Condon’s dramatic retelling of the recent story of Wikileaks, the internet’s self appointed place for whistle blowers to blow their whistles. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Julian Assange through the beginnings and rise to prominence of the site. The story is full of complex moral arguments and twists and turns as those involved wrestle with what it means to be transparent in the face of real world consequences.
So let’s just start right off with the best thing about the movie, and his name is Benedict Cumberbatch. Sometimes an actor just finds a way to fully merge with his character and Cumberbatch is in that zone in “The Fifth Estate”. It’s even more incredible considering not only is he playing a living historical figure, but basically playing the real life current version of him. And yet he somehow finds a way to make the character his own and still pay direct and uncanny homage to Julian Assange’s real life look and demeanor. He’s not the only one giving a good performance here either. Daniel Bruhl is also good as his right hand man, though it’s safe to say he was better earlier this fall in Rush. Aside from the acting, I also enjoyed some of the ways Condon decides to portray the digital work that these guys the way they work and relate. Unfortunately despite these things, The Fifth Estate was a tough watch.
and I think that’s mostly a result of the complex and detail dense story. As much as I learned from this film about Assange and how wikileaks changed the way stories break, I almost feel a little dizzy from how quickly the story worked it’s way through a lot of this maze. It all leads to a feeling of congestion that I would tag as the film’s worst thing. You come away from the movie feeling like you just took a 13 week college course in one 2 hour block and it steals a bit of the joy from the proceedings. Though the film is not devoid of relationship and message (mainly about the cost and consequence of transparency) these things feel shoved to the side quickly in favor of moving the story to the next important marker. It’s a disorienting experience that quickly becomes exhausting. And I’m pretty sure most of us don’t go to the movies to get exhausted.
Overall, “The Fifth Estate” is a powerful story with some great acting that falls prey to it’s own complexity and breadth of story, without Benedict Cumberbatch I would have probably gone with a C, but his performance alone pulls it up to a B-.
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