The Fifth Estate: Well-Acted, but Between Two Genres

By:  Thomas R. Eddlem
The Fifth Estate: Well-Acted, but Between Two Genres

The Fifth Estate is more like a documentary — without the context or the strict adherence to documentable facts — than it is an dramatization.

It's not a bad film, even though it straddles the two worlds without fully embracing either genre. As such, many people who love information about organizations like WikiLeaks will pine for a genuine independent documentary about the website during the movie, while the modestly informed may be confused by the film's swirl of references to actual historical events. 

But The Fifth Estate tells a story that needs to be told. WikiLeaks is a whistleblower website that has toppled billion dollar corporations and banks, overturned governments and elections, and ruined careers of corrupt politicians around the world with one tool: the truth.

All WikiLeaks does is publish secret documents, and protect the leakers with a promise of anonymity. Not surprisingly, the apologists of corrupt government have cried “treason” at every turn, and used every means in their possession to silence WikiLeaks and its growing number of counterparts across the Internet. Indeed, the land of the free and home of the First Amendment was the first government to censor (temporarily, through a court restraining order) the WikiLeaks website. The film takes notice of all of WikiLeaks' major scoops, from the Julius Baer bank scandal that got WikiLeaks going, to the “Collateral Murder” video of U.S. helicopter gunships gunning down civilians they knew were unarmed and wounded that made global news, to the the Iraq war logs, the Afghan war logs, U.S. Diplomatic Cables, the overturning of the government in Kenya, and the beginning of the Arab Spring.

The Fifth Estate features extraordinary acting performances. Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek: Into Darkness) is uncanny as Julian Assange. The only thing stopping an Academy Award nomination for Cumberbatch is that the critics have thus far panned the film. Supporting Cumberbatch with excellent performances are Daniel Brühl (Joyeux Noel) as Daniel Berg and David Thewlis (Harry Potter series) as London Guardian reporter Nick Davies.

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