Director Bill Condon’s latest film The Fifth Estate seems to be at the center of some criticism. The film follows the start up of the infamous site, Wikileaks and its controversial founder Julian Assange, a white-haired Australian activist. We watch as the idea evolves from the mind of two men, Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his partner that he brings on, Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl).
The two men quickly become fast friends with a common mission in sight: to bring the truth to the masses. Soon however, Assange’s ideas of what is right and wrong conflict with Berg and how far he is willing to go to inform the world of secrets that have been recently uncovered.
Assange is portrayed by rising star Benedict Cumberbatch, who is most known for his role as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series Sherlock and his surprising role in this summer’s Star Trek Into Darkness, portrays the eccentric narcism of Assange to an eerie accuracy. Filled with grandiose ideas of betterment for the world by his hand and the extent he is will to do to achieve that, Cumberbatch unnerves the viewer to the very core.
Berg (Daniel Bruhl), Assange’s complement but also counter, is ernest and charismatic. Bruhl is able to make the audience fall in love with his character and the struggles he feels about how far the two should really go. It is the relationship that the audiences watch change from two collective minds to two opposing forces that make the movie as successful as it is.
This film shows Berg’s side of the events that took place since the script is based from his book Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website as well as the book of fellow collaborators David Leigh and Luke Harding. While Condon could have taken full advantage of adding extra drama, he instead stays true to the story rather than using cheap tricks to entertain the viewer.
Elegantly understated, The Fifth Estate takes you into the mind-set of Berg and how he sees Assange and his ideas. The film also shows how Berg’s view on how close Assange was able to come to his goal, disregarding the harm that could come to others. Assange’s mind and thinking is never revealed in full detail, so the viewer never truly knows what is going on in his mind. Instead, Berg’s personal experience provided some insight.
Condon explores other means of helping the viewer understand just what is going on and how these men are able to get the information they do, without risking any of those involved. Instead of just having simple dialogue as one character explains it to the other and hoping the viewer follows along, Condon implores visuals to help everyone grasp what had happened. While it could be considered a little gimmicky, the purpose is the same as the film itself, which is truth.
The entire concept of this film can be broken down to that one simple word. Exploring the complexities of all that it entails, The Fifth Estate leaves the viewer completely unsure of what exactly to believe or who to believe in. It also gives the viewer the idea that truth can be changed and manipulated.