Opening 31 Oct 2013
Writing credits: Daniel Domscheit-Berg, David Leigh, Luke Harding, Josh Singer
Principal actors: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Brühl, Carice van Houten, Peter Capaldi, David Thewlis
This fast-paced political thriller is based on real events. In 2006 Australian Julian Assange created a website – WikiLeaks – as a safe submission-platform for whistleblowers. Its defining feature is that the informant’s identity can’t be traced, and confidential and sensitive information – governmental or corporate – can be made public anonymously without censorship or repercussions. Herein lies the strength and the weakness of WikiLeaks; it enables (world-) wide circulation of non-vetted, often very private information. Assange’s collaborator was German computer tech Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl); the script is partly based on his account of events, Inside WikiLeaks, that he published after he split WikiLeaks in disagreement over how much ‘collateral’ damage is justifiable. Their battle mirrors the fierce and ongoing public discussion.
The film has the viewer rooting alternately for the hunter and the hunted. Tremendously enjoyable is Benedict Cumberbatch’s fascinating performance as Assange; Laura Linney is noteworthy in a supporting role as the U.S. Secretary of State. (Carola A)
Secrets. What are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society? And what are the costs of exposing them? The answer to these questions become the force that drives the founder of WikiLeaks.org, Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to suspend his right-hand man, Daniel Domschrit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) after an intense three-year collaboration to offer a safe place for whistleblowers to post newsworthy documents for appropriate attention world-wide. The two comrades originally connect to be secret overseers for the privileged and powerful. Filmmaker Bill Condon and screenwriter Josh Singer explain the process of how an organization with well intensions to hold the world accountable from dubious dealings can be overwhelmingly destructive without its own checks and balances in The Fifth Estate.
The title of the latest DreamWorks Studio film The Fifth Estate gives us an explanation. They share that the modern definition of the word “estate” refers to different types of property. The expression “fifth estate” refers to something of a different concept and a way to pigeon-hole people. In 1380 John Wycliff uses the term “The First Estate” meaning that people were either in one of three categories ordained by God: a priest, a knight or a commoner. This made reference to who was to have a voice regarding the government. “The Second Estate” made reference to nobility and the wealthy elite. “The Third Estate” accepted the commoners and workers. “The Fourth Estate” in the 18th century labelled those who were outside the circle of the established political power – otherwise known as the press or media. “The Fifth Estate” are those who am to keep the other estates in check – whistleblowers, watchdogs, citizen journalists or WikiLeaks.
The sincere protection plan from the private source (WikiLeaks) created to hold the world accountable for “justice for all” to be a reality radically falls apart when they encounter greed. Notably the idea alone is an incredible undertaking. To plan, produce and execute the WikiLeaks platform for the world to use as a resource with anonymity one must acknowledge the sincerity. Hats off to the brains and mechanics behind the plan – Assange, Brühl, The Architect, the true WikiLeaks volunteers and the multitude of whistleblowers – who earnestly desired to hold the world in check for government and corporate misbehaving. A good plan! But…what happens when things starts to spiral out of control?
The Fifth Estate shows that when WikiLeaks begins to shine, the light on impressionable news stories uncovering corporate and governmental crimes from whistleblowers, the stories are so shocking that was hard to believe and even moe difficult to rein in the facts. The major media groups around the world remain one step behind the watchdog WikiLeaks. Assange and Domscheit-Berg gain confidential intelligent documents highly damaging to the United States government. To share or not to share, that is the question.
DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment in association with Participant Media team up with producers Steve Golin and Michae Sugar, as well as film director Bill Condon to bring a riveting narrative based on true events. The intense and complicated storyline is appropriately executed by every single member of the cast and crew in The Fifth Estate but the real hero is by far screenwriter, Josh Singer. Singer, the famed writer from TV shows like “Fringe” and “The West Wing” based his screenplay from at least two books documenting the actual WikiLeaks saga. The first being Inside WikiLeaks: My time with Julia Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the second by the Guardian book WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy by David Leigh and Luke Harding. DreamWorks Studios notes, “The Fifth Estate reveals the quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned the internet start-up into the 21st century’s most fiercely debated organization.” Wear your thinking cap when you view The Fifth Estate...you will need it. (Karen Pecota)