Yes, I had to wait for The Fifth Estate to be released on DVD & Blu-Ray before I could watch it. Unfortunately, the run in theaters here was incredibly short during a very busy time for me, and I missed it. Thankfully, the wait for it to arrive on DVD wasn’t too long.
The Fifth Estate is the story of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Before this movie, most of what I knew about WikiLeaks and its founder came from American media, so pretty much nothing positive. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this film, but I’ve come to trust that Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t choose crappy roles.
Originally, my review of this film centered around the similarities and differences between the men portrayed in the movie, but I realized (after I was about 700 words in) that these are real people. I’m not a psychologist and I don’t know these people or their history. Everything I know about them comes from the media or this film.
However, I couldn’t let this film pass by without writing about it. This is one of those that made a lasting impression. The Fifth Estate makes me think, long after the credits rolled, about information and power. Who has the information? Who decides what is important for the public to know? Who has the power? Who feels powerless? Who actually is powerless? All of this has been swimming around in my head. It started long before The Fifth Estate hit theaters, but the movie definitely helped coalesce some of these thoughts.
I began to watch and read the news in a new way, looking for the truth, seeing what stories weren’t being aired or were being glossed over, digging through the internet to find more information when something caught my attention. Trying to find more to base an opinion on than what the biased mainstream media offered. There’s a lot we never hear or read about. A lot of that is important stuff too. Logically, it isn’t hard to grasp, but the reality is a lot bigger than I realized.
In the end, what I can say is that while I disagree with where Assange ended up, I do believe that it all started as a good idea. Exposing corruption, revealing corporate and political deceits is important, because when these things are shown in the light, they do change the world. Making it safe for someone to come forward with this information is important too.
Knowledge really is power, and individuals know they aren’t being given all the information. Maybe this is why so many people I know feel like they can’t make a difference. They don’t vote on Election Day, they don’t speak out, and they don’t get involved. Is this because they are aware they aren’t getting the whole story? Do they feel powerless because they know that the really important stuff is hidden away and they don’t know where to begin to find it? Do they fear the consequences? I don’t know.
Truthfully, I don’t have any answers after watching The Fifth Estate. What I have are questions, lots and lots of questions. There’s a line between safety and deceit when it comes to disseminating information. How do we determine when that line’s been crossed? What is too much information? Who do we let decide?
The Fifth Estate took on a difficult subject with, admittedly, biased source material and crafted a story that raises more questions than it answers. I think that’s the point. It doesn’t pretend to have the answers and it doesn’t pretend to be the definitive source for all things WikiLeaks. That has caused some people to rain down a torrent of negative reviews. Respectfully, I disagree. I think The Fifth Estate did exactly what it set out to do. It sparked conversation and debate.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Assange, done without the benefit of in-person interviews (Assange refused to meet with him), takes a person the media cast as a villain and shows us a man, a man who began a quest with good intentions. Daniel Brühl, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci and the rest of the cast performed beautifully, but I’ll admit my eye was on Assange (I mean Cumberbatch playing Assange. That guy does it every single time.). Being from Bradley/Chelsea Manning’s home state, the media coverage of the events was particularly damning, and seeing the passion and initial purpose behind the WikiLeaks’s conception gave me an incentive to find more of the story on my own.
The film sparks curiosity, debate, thought, and interest in a topic that deserves discussion. Just as the true purpose of WikiLeaks was to provide the public with the information to draw their own conclusions, The Fifth Estate does the same. What do you think?
‘Til next time,