Truth can not only be stranger than fiction. It can be better. The Fifth Estate is one of the most interesting, most valuable, and most suspenseful movies I have seen recently – despite knowing much of the story already.
Based largely on a book by Daniel Berg (Daniel Brühl; Rush, Inglorious Bastards) about his time working with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, The Fifth Estate dramatizes the origin of the now infamous website and its leak of thousands of classified cables and war logs provided by Private Manning.
Though Assange has stated publicly that the story presented is terribly skewed against him and borderline fictitious, the film did not come off that way to me. By the end, no one in the film appeared completely innocent or completely wrong. Each party appeared to be doing what they thought best and clashing in the process.
Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness, Sherlock) was phenomenal as Julian Assange. While I have loved his past performances, this is the first time that I did not identify his character primarily as “The Cumberbatch Character.” He adeptly shows Assange’s complex nature – neither making him appear hero or villain but simply a man with a mission and the courage of his convictions. Cumberbatch was not alone when it comes to stellar performances – the entire cast was fantastic.
The performances of the cast, coupled with superb direction, script, photography, editing, and music create an A-List film that never drags. Alternating between shock, compassion, humor and suspense, the film kept me always guessing and always interested.