Monday, October 21, 2013

The Fifth Estate

The would-be Wikileaks thriller "The Fifth Estate" pales by comparison to Alex Gibney's documentary from earlier this year called "We Steal Secrets."

Gibney made Wikileaks' most famous data dump exciting by investing us emotionally in both Julian Assange and Bradley Manning. Here, Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange is all self-aggrandizing speechifying; he's a pompous bore. And Daniel Brühl (so good in "Rush") has nowhere to take the inherently less interesting (because purely reactive) Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who seems sort of stupid here for getting caught in Assange's thrall. The material is not intrinsically cinematic - at many points, we're reduced to watching Assange and his acolyte typing instant messages on laptop keyboards - and it doesn't help that Condon has shot the film in a pointlessly hyperkinetic style suggesting he forgot to bring his Ritalin to the shoot. A thread involving Laura Linney and Stanley Tucci as State Department lifers imperiled by the release of unflattering e-mails also goes nowhere. "The Fifth Estate" takes subject matter with all the potential of the Pentagon Papers and makes it a crashing bore.

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