“The Fifth Estate” was claimed to be the biggest box office flop of 2013 and I was so shocked that so few people care about Wikileaks. And by “care” I mean exactly that I am not talking about them liking or disliking Assange. But now that I actually saw the movie I think no one went to see it because everyone knew beforehand the movie was bad. Was I the only one who didn’t get that memo? 😀 (Yes, every film critic out there said it was bad).
Long story short: the movie is more Daniel Berg-centered than Assange-centered (THE man behind Wikileaks) to the point where we don’t really see much of Assange or his opinions and personality. Then the movie proceeds to criticise Julian and in the end simply mocks him. Not really the meal the trailer prepared us for which can’t but make you feel like you had been lied to.
In the movie Assange is depicted as hippie, lonesome man in need of attention. A rebel in need of a cause. An outsider with questionable hygienic habits. He needs a partner and lies to Daniel about the scale of his “start-up” to get him on board even though Daniel is not prepared for the sacrifices Assange needs him to do. A lot of the stress in their relationship stems from here. Daniel finds out that he is not working with like-minded people on a mission for more transparency and social justice. Rather he is working for a man who does not see Wikileaks as a cooperation but as a mean to become influential. The difference in the attitudes and level of commitment to the project in both man turns into an unbridgeable gap as Assange seems to think Daniel does not fully understand Wikileaks’ potential. In other words Daniel does not aim as high as Assange would want his partner to do. His desire to publish everything without redactions (i.e without consideration of the consequences of leaking names and locations) makes him look destructive and dangerous. Never does the movie though try to explain Assange’s opinion on that.
The movie is titled “The Fifth Estate” but there is nothing about that in it. I don’t think it could call itself a movie about Wikileaks it’s just a story of what Wikileaks meant to Daniel. It’s not a third-person/objective perspective on Wikileaks as phenomenon and what it did and means, it’s not Assange’s perspective on it (and Assange is THE man, not Daniel), it’s not the US government’s perspective (the three major points of view) it’s just Daniel’s story. We get to see how Assange’s obsession with his work is negatively affecting Daniel’s sex with his girlfriend but we don’t get to see how Assange’s sex scandal affects the whole project. It’s quite hollow. Not that I wanted to see Assange’s sex affairs, mind you.
I understand that Wikileaks is a controversial story with many layers and points of view and it would be difficult to put all that in a movie with a watchable length but shouldn’t one at least try? And if not, then how about taking only one dimension and working it out well?
In conclusion, here’s what I liked about the movie:
– it quotes Oscar Wilde: Give a man a mask and he will tell you the truth.
– it includes cool phrases such as: “a man of purpose that’s what the world needs” and “the court of public opinion”
– I loved Assange’s chilled attitude, the screen where he is dancing in a club and his “Pirate Bay” t-shirt.
– Around the 51-minute mark there’s this editing effect where drops of blood on a car window defuse into/transit into red lights in disco meaning that while some are dying some are having fun. Awesome!!!
Also, last but not least I join what everyone who has seen the movie says that Benedict Cumberbatched’s acting was awesome.