Film Review: The Fifth Estate

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During a pivotal speech in Bill Condon’s contentious film about the rise of WikiLeaks, founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) paraphrases the words of Oscar Wilde as justification for using whistleblowers to shame Governments into} transparency.

“Give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth,” drawls Assange to a hall of potential acolytes.

Undated Film Still Handout from The Fifth Estate. Pictured: Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange and Daniel Bruhl as Daniel Berg. See PA Feature FILM Film Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Entertainment One. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Film Reviews.

Undated Film Still Handout from The Fifth Estate. Pictured: Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange and Daniel Bruhl as Daniel Berg. See PA Feature FILM Film Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Entertainment One. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Film Reviews.

Whether there is absolute truth in The Fifth Estate is

debatable.

Based in part on Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s book Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange At The World’s Most Dangerous Website, Condon’s film has been denounced by the website, which insists “most of the events depicted never happened”.

There are certainly elements of The Fifth Estate that beggar belief, including the central relationship between Assange and Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl).

On screen, the white-haired Australian founder is depicted as manipulative, self-serving and bullying. He treats everyone, particularly nice guy Daniel, with lip-curling disdain which forces us to question why the two men would continue to work together when one is painted as a monster.

Every character except for Assange abides by a moral compass, including the British media, painting the world as black and white.

We don’t need WikiLeaks to tell us that’s an illusion.