The Fifth Estate

Rating: Director Bill Condon has given us a film better suited for a political seminar than the big screen. Just what are the consequences of Americans spying on themselves?

The Fifth EstateBased on the book by Daniel Berg, Julian Assange’s right hand man in the creation of Wikileaks, this is a film that is far more intellectually stimulating than it is emotionally entertaining. Covering the rise and fall of Mr. Assange, you get an inside look at personal destruction when brilliance is destroyed by conceit.

Benedict Cumberbatch gives a powerful performance as Mr. Assange, a man whose public image is defined by his flowing blond locks. Joining forces with Berg, he is dedicated to breaking the codes of the political elite and bringing them to their knees. A man of inexhaustible energy, he travels the world in pursuit of his next prey, exposing corruption in Africa, the Middle East and even the United States.

Mr. Assange is demanding beyond words, and Mr. Berg and other cohorts are called upon to sacrifice their personal lives to achieve their ultimate goals. Proud that they protect their sources, you can only expect to challenge the world’s power brokers for so long until you suffer pay back.

Daniel Bruhl, fresh off his fantastic performance as Niki Lauda in the unfortunately overlooked Rush, is tremendous as Mr. Berg. While he joins Assange in wanting to exzpose corrupt world leaders, he gets a firsthand view at the toll suffered by his friend.

This film is unfortunately dying at the box office because no one really cares about Assange. That is tragic, because the tale of Wikileaks has all the more meaning in our world given the secret policies by NSA that were exposed by Edward Snowden. We are now faced with an American governmental policy where not only are our phone calls and emails compromised, but we apparently are even wiretapping Angela Merkle, the Chancellor of Germany.

Ironically, Snowden remains holed-up in Russia while Assange lives in the Equadorian Embassy in London. Mr. Snowden admittedly violated his sworn duty to protect the secret cables of our government, and Mr. Assange foolishly published all of Pvt. Manning’s confiscated cables, in the process exposing numerous American collaborators to personal harm.

Entering into a private agreement with The New York Times and other newspapers to allow Manning’s stolen cables to be edited, Assange was so caught up in his own celebrity that he published all of the cables unedited. In doing so, he lost his good name, not to mention exposing himself to prosecution for sexual misconduct which may be little more than payback from powerful governments.

Maybe Mr. Snowden and possibly Mr. Assange deserve to be prosecuted and jailed, but I can’t help but think that they performed a public service by exposing American governmental policy for its actions in spying on people around the world. Like it or not, you walk out of the theater feeling that nothing is private in our country any more, and you can’t help but feel that George Orwell was prescient in his classic novel “1984″.

Have we reached the point where Big Brother is watching?