Friday, October 18, 2013

The Intrigue of "The Fifth Estate


“Fifth Estate” Explores WikiLeaks

By Skip Sheffield

As a long-time journalist I eagerly anticipated seeing “The Fifth Estate.” As a movie fan I was not disappointed.
“The Fifth Estate” is the story of WikiLeaks and its egotistical, tyrannical creator, Julian Assange.
Assange, who is a most distinctive-looking, platinum-haired Australian man, is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, a most distinctive, brilliant 37-year-old British actor. Playing Assange’s conscientious right-hand man Daniel Berg is Daniel Bruhl, who looks almost completely different in the still-showing race car film “Rush.”
These two actors are the key elements in the story, which is a fictionalized, greatly simplified account of Berg’s book “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World’s Most Dangerous Web Site.” The book was written with the assistance of David Leigh and Luke Harding and adapted for the screen by Josh Singer.
The director in charge of this complicated history is Bill Condon, director of “Dreamgirls” and “Twilight Saga: Breaking Down Part 2.”
“Fifth Estate” covers a lot of waterfront in a short time. We get a visual representation of the advancing technology of print racing from the time of Gutenberg to the latest in World Wide Web Internet inventions before the story even begins at England’s Guardian in 2010. Condon has a way with flashy visuals to help dramatize an uncinematic story.
The Fourth Estate is the name given to the traditional press media as a group. “Fifth Estate” denotes an evolution or mutation if you will into paperless, instantaneous journalism done in a free-form, reckless and at times illegal fashion.
Julian Assange emerged as a self-appointed watchdog; a whistle-blower to all manner of political, military and monetary misfeasance. Daniel Berg was recruited early on as Assange’s right-hand man; a computer genius. The relationship that developed became like a Cain and Abel story. The fall from best friends to bitter rivals is illustrated graphically with literal fire and destruction simulating the deletion of massive computer files.
“The Fifth Estate” glosses over the intricacies of its creation (particularly the role of Bradley-now Chelsea Manning’s military secrets) and overly dramatizes the relationship of the two main creators. The fact remains WikiLeaks rocked the world and continues to do so. Assange lives in relatively comfortable exile in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. In his absence WikiLeaks lives on. You may not find this story as fascinating as I do, but it is important for all of us.