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The Slate

All Facts, No Charm

All Facts, No Charm

The Fifth Estate is a dramatic thriller depicting the rise and fall of WikiLeaks’ Australian creator Julian Assange. WikiLeaks leaped into the public eye in the year 2010 with the release of private records that took down a corrupt major Swiss bank. Since then it has had an open door policy, allowing any anonymous source to bring revealing information to light. The released information and WikiLeaks have had a significant historical global impact. This movie, however, will not.

Directed by Bill Condon, whose only claim to fame is directing the final Twilight (Breaking Dawn parts I and II) films, The Fifth Estate prides itself on special effects rather than a captivating story. It seems like such a waste for such a goldmine of true events. All the pieces are there; secrets are revealed, people are arrested or killed, but it’s all empty. There are far too many plotlines and location changes to allow any connection to be built with the audience. There have been plenty of successful large cast, multiple storyline pictures made (Crash). These productions, though, dedicate more care and time to their narratives. The Fifth Estate, even with its over two-hour run time, felt like not enough was given. 

Benedict Cumberbatch, who has become an amazing rising star, plays an enigmatic and intriguing Julian Assange. The problem is that the most interesting character is not the main character. Julian, the cult-surviving, computer hacking wizard is being observed throughout the film rather than explored. The real main character is Daniel Berg (Daniel Bruhl), a fellow hacker who helped Julian spread the WikiLeaks movement. Since the movie is based on a book not written by Assange, it makes sense that the narrative feels very one sided. We watch Julian suffer mentally but never get a private moment with him to see the full extent. 

When all is said and done, the ending left far too many unanswered questions - a remarkable feat for a movie based on a true story. It really feels like this project was made too soon. Historically, the events have not been resolved and the consequences have not fully played out. What could have been a great story on a global event turned into a rushed Hollywood schlock.

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