The Fifth Estate tells the story of how the vision of one man, Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and the breadth of knowledge of another, Daniel Berg (Daniel Bruhl), took free speech to a whole new level thanks to the internet age and everything that comes along with it.
The film is directed with an impeccable touch by Bill Condon from a screenplay by Josh Singer. Singer adapted his script from two books: Inside WikiLeaks My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website and David Leigh and Luke Harding’s WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy.
It’s easy to see how what is shown in this The Fifth Estate revolution trailer is based on the written page. It is a well-researched and evenly chronicled story of one of the brightest flames and flameouts of the internet age. And better yet, it works as a thriller where those who followed the headlines are still compelled… even though they know how the sordid affair concludes.
It was fate that brought Assange and Berg together. Although Assange may feel differently, and expresses that often throughout The Fifth Estate, both needed the other to elevate WikiLeaks to the power-wielding weapon of information that it was. The relationship, as portrayed by Cumberbatch and Bruhl, is astonishing to watch onscreen. It’s almost as if Assange is a love interest who’s playing hard to get and Berg is someone who desperately wants to be included in his world.
But, where romance drives that analogy, this is purely about power and changing the world. We believe that Berg truly felt that he was doing good, whereas The Fifth Estate gives us the impression that Assange was driven by ego, the desire for power that empire-destroying brings and, at its heart, trying to make up for a childhood that was lost to isolation and psychological manipulation.
Cumberbatch continues his hot streak that has seen him in Star Trek Into Darkness and will see him in the upcoming 12 Years a Slave. His Assange is every bit of the elusive enigma that the man is in real life. The actor portrays him with a touch that is firm at times and almost effortless at others… and manages to hit the notes perfectly for every other emotion in between.
After seeing Bruhl steal an entire movie in Rush, we see him do it again in The Fifth Estate. This is supposed to be the movie about Assange and we know that in real life he did not want this film to be made. But, maybe he could relax a bit because our takeaway -- our The Fifth Estate review has to say -- is the power that Bruhl brought to his role as Berg. This is a talent who is just getting started in 2013. To see where he goes in the future is one of the best things about this cinematic year.
And finally, Condon was an impeccable choice to direct. It is a fantastical world that he brings to life, an aspect that many of the man’s films share. There is a pacing to this biopic, of sorts, that feels like an international espionage thriller. That is exactly how Assange saw his world and Condon captures that brilliantly.