Opening Friday: The Fifth Estate
Because of one of my several volunteer gigs, I was invited to attend a preview of The Fifth Estate, the movie about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks opening wide on Friday, October 18.
Science fiction fans both new and old will be pleased to see Benedict Cumberbatch, the latest Sherlock (right?) and the latest Star Trek villain (right?). And from back in the day, "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," Alexander Siddig, the doctor on the space station (right?).
My lack of sci-fi cred aside, this is a movie mostly removed from science fiction, as it’s based on the reality according to Daniel Domscheit-Berg, played by Daniel Brühl in the film. We’re introduced to him, a German IT office worker who wants more from his career and life, when he meets the idealistic Assange at one of the many western European computer hacking conferences that just look cooler than anything North America could hope to host.
Assange is soon revealed to be both a manipulative ass as well as an overly caring and damaged soul. The WikiLeaks goals – to provide a platform for whistleblowers to expose information anonymously and to post data sans censorship of any sort – are questioned as well as challenged in the film. (These facts are not spoilers to anyone who knows anything about Assange or WikiLeaks. For those of you who don’t, there’s this thing called the Internet.)
What The Fifth Estate does well is make the visuals of computer networks much more interesting than looking at computer screens or servers. For a movie about people who spend most of their time in front of computers it has a surprising number of settings and an international roster of locations.
Considering Chelsea Manning’s recent prison sentence and the revelations that Edward Snowden has shared, The Fifth Estate is timely and, I’m sure some will say, important. Even if the whole thing were fiction, it would still be an interesting story with high stakes. That it’s a mostly true story elevates those stakes further. According to Adam Kempenaar, co-host of Chicago-based film podcast Filmspotting, stakes are what make movies worth watching.
The Fifth Estate opens at several Chicago area theaters on Friday.