Friday, October 18, 2013

The Fifth Estate (2013)

Directed by: Bill Condon

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander, Stanley Tucci, Laura Linney. 

Review by James Colt Harrison 

Wiki-Leaks founder Julian Assange has been in the news for quite some time. He is not only in trouble with international law enforcement agencies, but he is aiding and abetting America’s alleged NSA spy/traitor Edward Snowden, now ensconced in a lavish Moscow bird cage where he can sing for his supper. The chirps can be heard around the world. 
Is all this international intrigue about stolen secret government papers worthy of a movie? Well, yes and no. It’s fairly difficult to make a pile of papers seem exciting, yet the effort that goes into finding out who stole them and who leaked them can be a basis for a thriller. Director Bill Condon tries but has turned out a Bourne Ultomato instead of an Ultimatum. 
A thriller The Fifth Estate is not. It tries hard, but it sort of falls flat on that score. However, lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch is the best thing in the movie, and he is a pleasure to watch. He’s not well-known in the USA, but he will be soon with the release of several more movies this year. It’s not only his bleached blond hair (or is it a wig?) that captures Assange, but also Cumberbatch’s unique speech pattern and pronunciation that gives a great “impression” of the Wiki-leaks founder.  

Assange early-on meets fellow computer geek Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl of Rush). They hit it off and plan a network of volunteers to spread Wiki-Leaks across the land. Later, things go wrong when Berg is shocked and displeased that Assange will not remove names from the leaked papers when published, thereby putting the people involved in danger. Assange’s true nature surfaces as one who is seemingly only interested in sensationalism. 
The spy story harkens back to a real-life occurrence in 1977 when convicted spy Christopher Boyce, age 22, sold secrets to the Soviet Union. For that misguided act of political conviction, Boyce was sentenced to 40 years in prison. He was released in 2005 after spending 25 years in prison. Is the same fate awaiting Edward Snowden? We shall have to wait and see once he is caught. Maybe at that time a more exciting movie will be made.

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