How much punishment can one laptop take?
Everybody knows what WikiLeaks is and its everlasting effect on the world of politics, humanity, and most of all, journalism. But does everybody know the man/creator behind it? Well, sort of, but if you don’t then here he is, in full-fledged form. Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is the man of the hour, and the man with the power who is able to release all of these confidential, and somewhat threatening pieces of information that is detrimental to plenty of big corporations out there who are living happy and easy, all because of their sneaky ways of screwing people over. However, even though Assange has all of this information up on his site, he doesn’t have the marketing to make it be seen by all those peeps worldwide. That’s where spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl) comes in and gives Assange and WikiLeaks all of the help that it needs to get out there to mass public audience, be seen by important politic figures, and have people aware of what’s really going on out there, without any strings attached like you would most likely find in a public newspaper. But, like with any company that finds its sweet-spot, WikiLeaks itself begins to show cracks of not only endangering the people they promised to protect, but also doing even more harm to the friendship of Berg and Assange, showing that one of them wants a bit more power and control than he ever originally imagined.
The story of beginning of WikiLeaks is a very interesting one, however, it’s one that I think can only be done justice through the documentary format. I know that there already is a documentary out there about the upbringing of WikiLeaks, Assange, Berg, and its overall impact on the rest of the world, but I have yet to see it, which means that this piece of mainstream media will have to do. And if that is the case, then so be it, because this movie isn’t half as bad as some people may be declaring as being. Then again, it is a movie that comes from Hollywood, so you can’t always expect the truth and nothing but it.
However, that’s what surprised me the most about this movie and Condon’s direction: It doesn’t necessarily take as many sides with this story as you’d suspect. Yes, you can tell that Condon definitely favors the idea of letting the general mass-public know what their government is doing to them, but he never gets too deep into it to where you can practically see him cheering the side on from their corner. He remains objective, shows both sides of the story, and while he’s at it, informs us just what happened and how this idea of a whistle-blowing website all come to fruition. If there’s anything that surprised the most about this movie, it’s that; the idea that not only can you inform me on a story I’d like to know more about, but you can also entertain me as well, without losing site of what this story means, who the characters are breathing inside of it, and why it all matters.
Although, I do have to say that the last aspect doesn’t really come into play as much, mainly because it seems like Condon is too infused with informing us, rather than actually giving us reasons to care in the first place. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it gives us plenty of ideas about what really went on behind those closed closets of the early days of WikiLeaks, but it still could have done itself an even bigger favor by reminding the audience that this all matters to us in the year 2013, and these are the reasons why. Another cyber-thriller of the same vein, The Social Network, performed this task expertly, however, that one worked on all cylinders when it came to its overall presentation. This, on the other hand, doesn’t really leave you with that lasting impression that our world is changed forever, and ever, and ever. It only reminds us that the government are a bunch of baddies that continue to do immoral, terrible things, and it’s up to us to pay attention.
Once again, not a bad idea to have in our heads, but is that really all WikiLeaks is about? I feel like there was more to it, but Condon didn’t explore it too much. Oh well, at least he made something like the constant clicking and clacking of computer keys entertaining and even, dare I say it, thrilling.
But where I think Condon takes the biggest misstep in his direction is in the way that he has Julian Assange himself portrayed. No gripes against Benedict Cumberbatch one bit as the guy is good at making us see all of these clear intentions behind the way he speaks, act, and interacts with the people around him, and still making us see that he has a heart. However, once this character begins to go sour and his journey to proving right and wrong becomes blurry, then the missteps in making this real-life character interesting and compelling, begin to show and make you understand why the real-life Assange was so pissed about this portrayal so much. They don’t really rain on his parade, as much as they just make him out to be a bit of a control-freak that loved all of this attention and glory he received, and couldn’t share that with the others who helped him get to that point. Which is fine because the real-life guy definitely was like that, but it seems like that’s all Condon was too worried about: Making him a negative person, rather than just a person. Once that judgement got cloudy, then so did my interest-level as it seemed like the guy was just a dick, just to be a dick. Nothing more, nothing less.
Regardless of his character’s problems, Cumberbatch was still good to watch and had me more interested in him playing the person, than the actual person himself. Same goes for Brühl who, with last month’s Rush, is showing his bright and talented face to American audiences for the greater good that they will all eventually latch onto the fact that not only is this guy a talented actor, but he’s also a very versatile one as well, able to make a character that doesn’t really say or do much throughout the whole movie, and yet, you still know what his true intentions are and best of all, you know they’re good and better than Assange’s turn out to be. That bastard.
The rest of the cast is pretty good with Stanley Tucci, Anthony Mackie, and Laura Linney showing up as a bunch of United States agent members trying their best to figure out what’s going on with WikiLeaks and its overall effect on their confidential informants in foreign countries. Though there is a subplot featuring Linney’s character that goes a bit overboard at one point, they all do fine and make their story somewhat interesting, rounding out what could have been a very one-sided story. Also, nice to see David Thewlis popping up in something and putting his charm to the works. The guy always finds a way to make me laugh, even if I’m not British and can’t get past his usage of various slang.
Consensus: More importance upon why WikiLeaks matters would have done The Fifth Estate more good, but with the solid acting and enjoyable feel, without ever being too convoluted or confusing for people who literally know diddly-doo about the actual true story, it still works as a movie to see, but not to expect too much from in terms of opening up your eyes and seeing the world. and your government, in a totally different way. If you want that, just go to the site yourself.
7 / 10 = Rental!!