Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Fifth Estate

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Julian Assange will be back in...The Sixth Estate.

The Fifth Estate – 3 out of 5

Regardless of your opinions of Julian Assange, one can’t help but agree the man was revolutionary in the world of journalism and media. To some, he was an anarchist trying to shake up the world, to others he was a hero trying to make the wrongdoers accountable (he believed this more than others) and to another group of people all together, he was a narcissistic and sociopathic rapist. However, no matter which group you sit in (I guess there’s another group who watchs too much reality TV and have no idea who he is), you can’t help but agree that the man’s story and the rise of WikiLeaks and its impact on the world is definitely an interesting one…too bad the film failed to capture that.

"The hell you say?"

The Fifth Estate tells the story of Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and how he brings WikiLeaks to the top of the world of controversy. Daniel Berg (Daniel Brühl), an idealistic young man, meets Assange and becomes enamored with the man’s mission to expose tyranny and corruption from around the world in an unapologetic and uncensored fashion. Together, they make WikiLeaks the biggest thing in news to ever exist and, soon, their mission statement of posting sensitive documents being leaked by whistleblowers from the inside ends up making them Public Enemy Number One when they release war logs from Afghanistan that ends up putting the United States in a compromising position. Berg quickly goes from seeing Assange as a hero to a tyrant in his own right and starts to regret his decision to join up with his ranks.

So...does the fact they have Assange in a PirateBay shirt mean I can illegally
download this film without any punishment?

Honestly, the film wasn’t that bad but it could have been a lot better if it hadn’t suffered in a single department. I enjoyed, literally, everything about this film except one thing. The acting is great, the visuals look great, the editing is tight (and great), the music used fits perfectly (and is great)—the only problem is the movie gets boring and its script lacks any spark (and is less great than the other great things).

I am pointless including a screencap of Anthony Mackie just to say that I'm
really excited to see him in Captain America 2...
But he was very good in this movie, too.

Aside from looking great visually, the performances in this film are second-to-none. However, that’s not really surprising when you look at the cast. Established actors like Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Mackie, Peter Capaldi (I REALLY can’t wait to see him in action as The Doctor) and David Thewlis lend their chops for the supporting characters within the WikiLeaks story but the real treat is watching Daniel Brühl and Benedict Cumberbatch as Berg and Assange.


Everything I’ve seen Daniel Brühl in during the last few years has been nothing but impressive to me (especially in Rush—gawd dammit, he was just way, WAY too awesome in that film. It should almost have been illegal.) and Brühl isn’t letting his momentum slide and is just spectacular to watch in this film. Seeing him go from an idealistic and hungry man out to bring justice with his hero Julian Assange to seeing him get swept up in the glitz and glamor that came with the fame WikiLeaks created, and then to see the realization of the fact their work can literally get themselves or others killed was fantastic to witness and just looked so natural that it was easy to lose yourself in Brühl’s performance and actually see him as Berg.

Even his beard gives a tremendous performance.

The greatest performance, I must say (and pretty much everyone else has said), belonged to Benedict Cumberbatch. While I don’t know Julian Assange personally, I have seen a lot of footage of him and what I saw in those clips and interviews is exactly what I saw in Cumberbatch. He really nailed not only the accent but the body language, the quiet voice and the overwhelming arrogance the man portrays. Cumberbatch, much like Brühl, was just captivating to watch. My favorite moment of Cumberbatch’s performance was the instant Assange realizes that he’s become an enemy of the state and his life is literally on the line. Prior to this moment, Assange saw himself as a Christ-like figure who talked a big game about being a revolutionary and would spin tales about all the people he was pissing off in the process but the moment that David Thewlis’ character tells him that he is being tailed by both Russian and American forces, you see the curtain fall in Assange’s eyes and he suddenly realizes he is no longer in some work of fiction he has created in his imagination but is in some real life troubles. The moment, and the way Cumberbatch performed it, was just jaw-dropping and it is just one example of how amazing the actor from Sherlock was in this film.

The awkward dancing Cumberbatch does as Assange is just the icing on the cake
with his performance.

This movie seemed like it had everything working for it: A cast of very talented actors giving their all, great visuals and tremendous editing, music that worked to create an atmosphere that is usually attributed to hacking and computer work (read that as the film had a lot of techno) and, most importantly, it’s based on something that just exploded in the world of the media and the internet…so, why did it only achieve my mediocre score of 3 out of 5? Well, first off, why are you asking that question because I answered it already. Okay, I’m sorry, I sounded like a jerk there but I’ll repeat myself (if it makes Your Highness happy).

Perhaps, Your Highness, you would like a screencap of Stanley Tucci from the film?
What's that?  You didn't ask for one?  IS THERE NO PLEASING YOU?!?

The Fifth Estate desperately wants to be a techno thriller about the hacking age entering the realm of espionage but, the problem is, the film never feels like it wants to get up and actually get moving towards the tension and thrills that should come along with the real-life story. While not entirely boring, the movie just feels like it’s going through the motions without putting much effort into anything. The film even struggles with the ambiguity over whether or not Assange is a traitor or hero. It’s disappointing really because the actually story of Assange and WikiLeaks is an interesting one and something that easily could have been embellished enough (or even not at all) to make the film filled with drama, tension and thrills. The only bit of drama they really worked on was the relationship between Berg and Assange and the feelings of rejection Berg feels when Assange fires him from WikiLeaks—however, even then it just doesn’t feel like it has any motivation to really deliver on its potential.

Berg and Assange stop to take the cover photo for their alt-rock band's first CD.

There are a lot of elements I enjoyed about The Fifth Estate and while not entirely boring the film just didn’t come close to what I was expecting from it. Brühl and Cumberbatch are incredible alone and together in this film and all the technical mumbo jumbo is top shelf stuff…I just wish it wasn’t so lethargic with its story. Honestly, the documentary about WikiLeaks; We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, has more drama and tension to it.

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