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THE FIFTH ESTATE (review)

fifth_estateTHE FIFTH ESTATE
Written by Josh Singer
Directed by Bill Condon
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl and David Thewlis
 

Julian Assange: As Oscar Wilde said, “Give a man a mask and he will tell you the truth.”

Director, Bill Condon, must be pretty happy he isn’t making movies about vampires anymore. Instead, he’s made a movie about a guy who resembles a vampire at times, but THE FIFTH ESTATE, a film about the rise of Wikileaks and its creator, Julian Assange, is still a far cry from the “Twilight” series. In the first few minutes, he establishes just how far man has come in terms of our means of communication, beginning with hieroglyphics in caves, then continuing with the printing press, which one day will be just as antiquated as the cave drawings. Now, we not only have a number of different sources and devices to consume our information on, but all of these options have chipped away at the credibility of the media elite, leaving the public unsure of who to turn to for the truth.

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Before 2010, few people had heard of Wikileaks or Assange, but after they released the Iraq war logs, complete and unabridged as per their mandate, major news affiliates across the globe, as well as the US government, were scrambling to keep up with the flow of information coming from the site. Assange, or at least Condon’s version of Assange, as played with great determination by Benedict Cumberbatch, prides himself on Wikileaks’ submission system, which guarantees anonymity and therefore allows whistleblowers the world over to come forward with information that is big enough to topple entire regimes. On the surface, Wikileaks seems like just the kick in the ass the mainstream media needs to start breaking real news again, but Josh Singer’s sharp screenplay questions whether Assange’s interests are as altruistic as he suggests they are or whether bringing down the man is simply meant to inflate his ego.

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Wikileaks has permanently changed the media game in a big way. THE FIFTH ESTATE, while still solid entertainment, featuring another stellar performance from Cumberbatch, as well as a strong showing for up and coming Daniel Bruhl, as Assange’s tech genius partner in crime, is not about to change the movie game in the same way. Condon has crafted an engaging thriller that asks all the right questions, and that delivers thought-provoking answers, but that does so in a way we’re all accustomed to already. And those who don’t change the game may one day go the way of the printing press as well.

4

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