The Fifth Estate (15)

Daniel Brühl

Run time 128 minutes

Director : Bill Condon

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Brűhl, David Thewlis, Stanley Tucci, Carice van Houten, Anthony Mackie, Peter Capaldi, Laura Linney and Dan Stevens


Political activist Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) recruits technical wizard Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) to work with him on WikiLeaks, an on-line platform that allows whistle-blowers to anonymously leak covert data, shining a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes. But when Assange and Berg gain access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in US history, they find themselves at odds as they struggle with a defining ethical question of our time: what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society—and what are the costs of exposing them?

Benedict Cumberbatch shines in this absorbing drama, plucked from today’s headlines, which explores the early years of WikiLeaks and its obsessive eccentric founder Julian Asange. With the Assange trademark shock of white hair falling over his face, Cumberbatch convinces as the fanatical campaigner whose motivation remains as mysterious at the end of the film as it does at the start. The supporting cast are uniformly excellent – Germany’s favourite young actor Daniel Brűhl gives a strong performance as Assange’s early days collaborator Daniel Domscheit-Berg, whose attitude to Assange shifts from admiration to doubt; and solid cameo performances are offered by Peter Capaldi , David Thewlis and Dan Stevens as Guardian journalists, and Stanley Tucci and Laura Linney as US Justice operatives. The pace is frenetic and the atmosphere crackling with paranoia as Assange plays his hit-and-run games with the forces of national and international security, living out of a backpack from country to country with the help of loyal supporters who hail him as a champion of freedom. But is he willing to take responsibility for some of the unplanned consequences of WikiLeaks’ revelations? Can he face ethical issues such as the deaths his exposures may be causing? The film offers no easy answers, which makes it a model of thoughtful cinema while at the same time living up to its credentials as an exciting thriller.

Photographs courtesy of Entertainment One