The Fifth Estate review

The Guardian prides itself on its "openness", but during the newspaper's dealing with WikiLeaks over the Bradley Manning leaks of the military war logs and diplomatic cables in 2010, it was as secretive as the CIA. This probably came partly from dealing with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (Cumberbatch), portrayed here as a paranoid control freak with trust issues and delusions of grandeur.

The story tells of the founding of WikiLeaks and the relationship between Aussie Assange and German partner Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Bruhl). Together these computer hackers build the WikiLeaks website into a place where whistleblowers can expose government secrets, wrongdoings and corruption anonymously and without fear of retribution. The film is based partly on Berg's book, Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange and the World’s Most Dangerous Website, and it does feel a little one-sided. Berg comes acrss as genial, easygoing and entirely ethical, while Assange is portrayed as a megalomaniac who seems determined to topple governemnts and won't let anything or anyone get in his way. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

As is usual with films that deal in any way with comptuer hacking, we see lots of people at keyboards doing things that probably don't happen in real life. And the reality of the story is probably not as exciting or as glamorous as shown here. Cumberbatch does a good job with Assange (although he does slip out of the Australian accent a couple of times) but its the wonderful Bruhl who is the glue that holds this peice together. The Fifth Estate is best viewed as an entertaining drama rather than the definitive story behind WikiLeaks.

The Fifth Estate at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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