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Review: The Fifth Estate

Another week, another Daniel Brühl film – this time, he is sparring with Benedict Cumberbatch‘s remarkably unlovable take on Julian Assange. The film is unlikely to win converts to Assange’s cause – if you’re not a fan of Wikileaks when you go in, you definitely won’t be you come out – but don’t let that put you off.

Set between 2007 and 2010, the film follows the story of Assange’s attempts to build a global online platform for whistleblowers that offers both complete anonymity and full disclosure – an opportunity to expose corruption wherever and whenever it occurs, providing data without bias. However, this film – told from the perspective of Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Brühl), Assange’s one-time partner – is anything but unbiased.

Cumberbatch has (yet again) been cast as an egocentric eccentric (see, for example, Star Trek, Sherlock etc) – in this case, it may or may not be an accurate portrayal, but it is convincing. His is a man for whom the truth is sacrosanct, regardless of the cost to others. For his part, Brühl puts in another great performance as the fan who gets swept up in Assange’s vision, but gradually begins to question his morality. An actor who has been on my radar since 2003’s Good Bye Lenin, Brühl is the king of the understated hero and this film is no different. His quiet passion is far more powerful than any amount of Cumberbatch’s posturing.

The two leads are ably assisted by an decent enough supporting cast, including Peter Capaldi, David Thewlis and Dan Stevens as the Guardian team that joins forces with Wikileaks, and Laura Linney and Stanley Tucci as the US diplomats attempting to protect their sources from the fallout of disclosure.

Sadly, as a thriller, it promises much more than it delivers. While it is slick enough, it is a good deal too long – in parts little more than a tourist guide to the cities of Central Europe – and the script is lacklustre. And although it may not give an accurate insight into the true story of the Wikileaks saga, it may at least reignite debate into how much the truth is worth. That, and whether Benedict Cumberbatch can pull off white hair…

128 mins | 15 | October 11
Watched: October 12, Cineworld Fulham Road, Screen 1


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