Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
From left, Benedict Cumberbatch, Carice van Houten, Daniel Bruhl and Moritz Bleibtreu in a scene from The Fifth Estate. Toronto International Film Festival AP Photo
From left, Benedict Cumberbatch, Carice van Houten, Daniel Bruhl and Moritz Bleibtreu in a scene from The Fifth Estate. Toronto International Film Festival AP Photo

Review: The Fifth Estate

Cumberbatch compellingly captures Assange in a film which see-saws between characters and plot-lines at a dizzying rate.

Director: Bill Condon Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Brühl, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander ⋆⋆⋆

⋆⋆⋆

There are times when a performance can almost save a film. Take Benedict Cumberbatch in The Fifth Estate, Bill Condon’s new drama about Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks website. With his shock of white hair and soft-spoken Aussie drawl, Cumberbatch compellingly captures Assange, despite almost being thrown off balance by a film which see-saws between characters and plot-lines at a dizzying rate. Based on two separate accounts of the controversial Australian, at its core is Assange’s strained relationship with the author of one, his former WikiLeaks colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl). Sadly, their friendship lacks the human drama seen in 2010’s The Social Network, which turned squabbles over founding Facebook into a Herculean power struggle. Instead, we get Domscheit-Berg fretting about his on-off girlfriend, pointlessly. It doesn’t help that Condon visualises, cheaply, exchanges in cyberspace as if characters are in a warehouse full of computers. At least the second half is more driven, as the British journalists (Peter Capaldi, David Thewlis) work with Assange towards his website’s defining moment – publishing 250,000 leaks sent by the American soldier Bradley Manning. But even here, you can’t help but feel just the surface gets scratched. As for Assange, despite Cumberbatch’s best efforts, he remains an elusive, enigmatic figure.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Hajer Almosleh, the winner of the last year's short story competition, at her home in Dubai. Duncan Chard for the National

Get involved with The National’s short-story competition

Writers have two weeks to craft a winning submission, under the title and theme "The Turning Point".

 It is believed that the desert-like planet of Tatooine is being recreated for Star Wars: Episode VII. Could that be where filming in the UAE comes in? Courtesy Lucasfilms

Could the force be with us? The search for Star Wars truth

On the hunt for the Star Wars: Episode VII set, which a growing number of people are sure is in Abu Dhabi, but no one can seem to find.

 With an estimated 18,000 comic and film fans having already paid a visit to this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con, organisers are hopeful they will have surpassed last year total, of 21,000, by its close. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

In pictures: Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai

Dubai's World Trade Center was awash with people visiting this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con. Here's some of our best pictures.

 Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, presents Quincy Jones with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award as the Admaf founder Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo applauds. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival.

A candid talk with Quincy Jones about the UAE, Lil Wayne and the Abu Dhabi Festival award

The Abu Dhabi Festival honoree Quincy Jones discusses his legendary career as a music producer, the return of Dubai Music Week and why he can’t handle the rapper Lil Wayne.

 Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge arrive at Wellington Military Terminal on an RNZAF 757 from Sydney on April 7, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

In pictures: Will and Kate visit Australia and New Zealand

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge are on a tour Down Under for three weeks.

 A protester gives a victory sign during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo in November 2011. Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Street life: humanity’s future depends on ability to negotiate and sustain public space

Negotiating our ever more crowded cities and maintaining vibrant public spaces are among the major challenges facing humanity in the coming decades.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National