THE FIFTH ESTATE got dutifully knocked by reviewers, which seems to be the standard fate with dramatic movies about whistleblowers. They praised the job done by Benedict Cumberbatch, playing Julian Assange, but sloughed off the movie in toto much the same way they treated Kill The Messenger, Fair Game, Promised Land and Green Zone. This sort of chain yanking goes back to the tiresome ridiculing of Stanley Kramer and Oliver Stone. First, decry that no-one makes movies about critical, touchy social issues. Then, when they do, dump on them. Sometimes, as with JFK, the attack begins before anyone’s seen the movie, including those writing about it. “curioser”…
No, I’m not saying everyone (or most) who scribble about flicks are in thrall to The Man, but it’s not an unsafe bet that ‘independent thinkers’ who work for “The Wall Street Journal” or “The New York Times” (and a hundred other Establishment mouthpieces) might be inclined to pile on when some project that more than a few people might see gets too close to their paymasters Paymasters.
This story tells part of the Wikileaks saga, mostly about the relationship between the apparent odd-fellow Assange and his chief helper, Daniel Berg. Since a visual tale about people typing at keyboards faces the hurdle that watching someone do that is less than thrilling (movies about people thinking about stuff tend to lag behind movies about people blowing up said stuff ), they amp up the project using fast edits, nervy music and an array of digital tricks. Well, why not? The acting’s all good, and Cumberbatch quivers with intelligent outrage. Assange liked the actor but criticized the movie as an attack piece designed to smear him and play up the governments side of the story with the standard sympathetic tack of ‘decent people doing what they ‘must’ in noble efforts’—-even if these involve sabotage of democratic processes, full scale invasions, torture,and the murder of innocents. What, us worry?
Directed by Bill Condon. Co-starring Daniel Bruhl, Alicia Vikander, Laura Linney (representing hardworking State Department baloney), Stanley Tucci (just because, with little to do), David Thewlis and Peter Capaldi. From 2013. 128 minutes.