Review: The Fifth Estate

There are an uncountable number of things that ordinary citizens can do in this day and age thanks to the internet. You can get the latest news, listen to music, watch movies, broadcast yourself to the world, watch free porn and do a host of other things that have assisted in altering the world in some way, shape or form. For someone like Julian Assange, he used the internet in a way that’s similar, but he did it on a grander scale that featured controversial methods of releasing controversial details that the ordinary citizen was never supposed to see or hear about. Along with Daniel Berg, his story is told in The Fifth Estate.

Being played by Benedict Cumberbatch, The Fifth Estate tells the story of Julian Assange as he goes as deep as he can to expose the many infractions of governments, banks and other organizations doing things that they’re not supposed to be doing. He’s relentless in his work and is determined to unmask and broadcast the illegal behaviors of the “powers that be” with the hopes of ultimately bringing them to their knees. His ferocious approach to accomplishing this mixed with a level of intelligence that some may perceive as superior leads him to developing wikileaks after years of doggedly hunting down the people with a discernible degree of financial power that have the capability of corrupting the ungoverned who make their own rules.

While developing the massive and dangerous website that came to be known as, Assange also bumps into a large number of people who want to help in his self-appointed crusade against the unethical segments of the world’s systems. One of the eager people that he meets is Daniel Berg (Daniel Brühl), a technologically sound German with skills of his own to bring to the table. Once these two become acquainted with one another, they strike a bond built around their desire to bring down the allegedly nefarious groups that Assange has spent years chasing after all across the planet.

Together, these two men lead a charge by hacking these types of institutions and releasing the information that’s discovered to the public. Due to this and the unpredictable structure of Assange’s creation, they’re becomes a world-wide phenomenon that spreads and forces the everyone to take notice. It turns them into celebrities in some circles while also bringing heat on them from the countless new enemies that they’ve been able to create in only a few years.

Obviously there are a lot of elements in The Fifth Estate that are worth paying attention to for any person who wants to give this a peak due to gaining an interest in the subject matter or just seeing how it’s all handled by Bill Condon and his team of filmmakers. With either reason behind your desire to want to see The Fifth Estate, you’re likely to leave the theater disappointed in what you witness since it’s a waste of money and costs you a couple of hours of your life that you won’t get back.

That may sound harsh, but if you watch the movie, you’ll know that I’m being honest in my assessment. One of the features within the film that kills is the complete lack of interesting aspects of the film. There’s nothing here to pull you in as a member of the audience and at times it may be hard to focus on for some. Seeing dudes sitting at a desk typing isn’t fun and having them talk about things that don’t pertain to any of the story’s main plot points don’t help either.

All in all, that’s essentially what goes on for a good portion of the movie. The issue that I have with The Fifth Estate is that there isn’t much in the characters that are being put out for the audience to watch. Just about everyone in the movie is flat and uninteresting. The actors in this account of the drama surrounding the Wikileaks affair are only here to deliver lines and lines only. There’s nothing about any of them that captivate you in the slightest and that’s difficult to sell when a film is this long.

With the exception of Laura Linney’s portrayal of Sarah Shaw, there’s no one else in The Fifth Estate that shows any natural level of emotion or personality. She’s just about the only one that looks to have any blood flowing through her veins, but she’s not portraying a significant character in the grand scheme of things. Aside from what she does in her role, there’s Anthony Mackie and Stanley Tucci who have at least some kind of personality, but they don’t have much either. The rest of the characters are completely lifeless.

Movies like The Fifth Estate need lively characters more than any other kind of film. In these instances, the characters will serve as a way to “jazz it up” a bit and keep the viewers interested over the course of the film’s entire duration. Without these guys, these nearly impossible for movies like this to succeed. There aren’t enough dramatic aspects within the story since it only exists to give details of actual events, so they need to rely on its characters. At their best, movies that face this dilemma are like cakes without frosting; they’re edible, but you won’t go out of your way to get seconds. At their worse, these movies will go largely ignored and uneaten.

The characters would serve as the frosting and help in making these movies interesting. With that extra frosting, you can add all types of designs to make it look more enticing and you can add more flavor to the unappealing loaf of dough as well. It helps people ignore the fact that the cake is still the same ordinary cake that it was before, but it taste better now and you may be willing to have another serving at its best. At its worse, you’d obviously be more likely to finish it because it’s more than just edible, because there’s also a little bit of flavor to it this time around.

The Fifth Estate does get its point across, but it never has much suspense and it never puts itself in a position to really peak at any point. When I think about what it is, this could have and most likely would have found success if it was made into a documentary instead of a feature film. There’s interesting material laid out for you in this picture, but its given to you in an uninteresting fashion that turns it into a hassle to watch. The film version is too long and lethargic to make people want to pay attention, but a documentary wouldn’t have those issues since most of them are between 60 to 90 minutes long.

If it were a documentary it would also have handled the characters differently. I can see the characters being shadowy versions of Assange, Berg and the rest of the group while being featured in re-enactments of the events that we watch in the movie. Based on how bland and flavorless these guys are in The Fifth Estate, there wouldn’t be too much of a difference from that perspective. The only difference would be that the people responsible for bringing this to the big screen would have undoubtedly saved a bunch of money doing it this way since they wouldn’t have actors with names in these roles.

Score: 1/5

Rating: R

Director: Bill Condon


Benedict Cumberbatch

Daniel Brühl

Anthony Mackie

David Thewlis

Moritz Bleibtreu

Alicia Vikander

Stanley Tucci

Laura Linney

Carice van Houten

Peter Capaldi

Dan Stevens

Alexander Siddig

Jamie Blackley

Film Length: 128 minutes

Release Date: October 18, 2013

Distributor: DreamWorks Pictures


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