Last night I watched The Fifth Estate – “the Wikileaks movie” – mainly off the back of the fact that I’m reading about Edward Snowden and CitizenFour is proving an elusive flick to find. I have to say, I don’t know why it took me so long to watch it!
For those who don’t know, The Fifth Estate is a semi-fictionalised account (if you ask Assange, at least) of the rise of Wikileaks, the complex relationship between its founder(s?) hacker Julian Assange and techie mate Daniel Berg and the shitstorm that blew up after the publication of the cables and war logs leaked to the site by Chelsea Manning. It’s also really, really good.
Okay, there’s no question that the film is one man’s story – Berg and Assange are, let’s say, no longer sending each other Christmas cards. But the important thing to remember is this: if you want to know about Wikileaks and the work it does, do to the site and do some reading. If you want to watch a thriller based on exciting and interesting recent events then the cinema is the place to go.
I didn’t care that it was all a bit OTT and, having done my reading, that it played with the recorded truth more than a little. I enjoyed the film for what it was: a film. There are some smashing performances here. Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange shone and every member of the supporting cast did a fantastic job.
There’s a hint of The Social Network about The Fifth Estate, in the sense that it glamorises the mundane to a point where a man typing a word on a laptop is exciting. As a thriller, it works. As a document of fact, maybe not so much. But then, it’s not a documentary – it’s a thriller. And Doctor Who is in it. Sherlock AND Doctor Who! If that’s not enough for you then what on earth do you want?! Right?
If the answer to that is “but Gareth, we aren’t interested in celebrity. We don’t care if Doctor Who is in it, we want to know about the events, the backstory and the workings of Wikileaks…” then I suggest you dig out the fantastic road-trip documentary We Steal Secrets, as close to an official telling of the story as you’re ever likely to get.
In the mean time grab a cup of tea or a beer, settle on the sofa and watch The Fifth Estate on DVD or something. It’s great fun. Really, it is. I wanted to hate it and I didn’t. Which, I suppose, is a good thing!