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Business News/ Mint-lounge / Features/  Film Review | The Fifth Estate
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Film Review | The Fifth Estate

Julian Assange is the bad guy in this film based on his multifaceted life

Benedict Cumberbatch (left) and Daniel Bruhl in a still from ‘The Fifth Estate’Premium
Benedict Cumberbatch (left) and Daniel Bruhl in a still from ‘The Fifth Estate’

There are many facets to Julian Assange. The founder of the website WikiLeaks, who is currently in diplomatic asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, has been both reviled and revered in the short time frame during which he achieved global fame. As the self-proclaimed revealer of truth, Assange published confidential documents from anonymous sources, which was celebrated by some as real journalism and criticized by others as being dangerous. The jury is still out on that one.

Unfortunately, the film, The Fifth Estate, portrays him in a single dimension—as an ambitious, self-promoting and ruthless man who will stop at no cost. That’s not surprising, considering the film is based on the book Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website by his estranged former colleague, Daniel Domscheit-Berg. There’s therefore little left to debate in this film—Assange is clearly the bad guy.

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Assange believes that protecting the whistleblower will expose the truth, because you “give a man a mask and he will tell the truth". He is deeply suspicious of everyone and everything, including the people he works with, because “people are loyal only until it’s opportune not to be".

The film’s opening sequence is a beautifully put-together history of the press, but once the actual story begins, it fails to grip you. The narrative is not engaging, and evokes no feelings for any of the characters. Director Bill Condon, who won a writing Oscar for Gods and Monsters (1998), has a subject on hand that’s relevant in this day and age but his screenplay lacks soul.

Cumberbatch, razor-sharp and edgy as television’s Sherlock Holmes, plays it cold and calculating without giving his character any other aspect. Bruhl, who was superb in the recently released Rush, too does not have much scope for histrionics. At a shade over 2 hours, this film feels long, which is never a good sign at the interval point.

The Fifth Estate released in theatres on Friday.

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Published: 24 Oct 2013, 01:02 PM IST
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