It is difficult to determine what The Fifth Estate is trying to achieve; whether it is a real life depiction of the ascent of Julian Assange (Benidict Cumberbatch) and WikiLeaks or does it simply aim to inform of the dangers of strict transparency, and how revealing the world’s secrets was guaranteed to cost lives.
Both scenarios propose irony in light of the film being based on WikiLeaks co-conspirator Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s (Daniel Bruhl) book My Time with Julian Assange and the World's Most Dangerous Website and WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy by two Guardian journalists, David Leigh and Luke Harding. Condon has placed considerable faith in these potentially bias sources generating instant controversy. Assange has been far from subtle in voicing his opinion of the film, declaring it to be “a mass propaganda attack against WikiLeaks, the organisation and the character of my staff”.
The film chronicles the relationship between Assange and Domscheit- Berg from the time he recruits and befriends him to the launch of hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic war logs and cables. The film is certainly visually compelling as we see the tech savvy activists arrive in a new city every day on their mission for transparency. Condon successfully builds the suspense and thrill necessary to hold the viewer’s attention.
Although the plot purpose must be called into question, there is one thing that’s for sure – Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange and Daniel Bruhl as Daniel Domscheit-Berg provided utterly flawless performances. The acting abilities must be praised by not only the leading two but also Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis and Alicia Vikande in smaller roles.
Despite the backlash Condon and screenwriter Josh Singer received from Assange himself and Wikileaks criticizing how true to life the film is, The Fifth Estate is still entertaining and definitely a somewhat informative watch.
The Fifth Estate is in cinemas this Friday (October 11).