The Fifth Estate” has done poorly in movie theaters, but it stars Benedict Cumberbatch, so I indulged our 14 year old daughter in her obsession of all things Benedict and took her to see it last night. (Jim and our 12 year old went to see “”Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2”.) I was pleasantly surprised by “The Fifth Estate.”
In all fairness, I completely understand why the movie has done poorly in the movie theaters (to the point where its worldwide revenue and DVD, pay-per-view, cable, etc. sales will not even recoup the marketing costs for this movie. Ouch.) But, to be honest, nothing very interesting or action-packed really happens in this movie. I mean, we are talking about classified documents being leaked, but the movie is mostly about Julian Assange and his one-man revolution to transform the world by taking advantage of 21st century communications. In order to start the revolution, you have to do a lot of typing on a keyboard. And that’s simply not that interesting to watch on a movie screen. I mean, really, do I want to spend $15 to see someone typing on a laptop? (And not even a Mac, at that.) Heck, I could use my laptop’s webcam and watch myself doing it. And while I’m certainly no Benedict Cumberbatch, neither is he with that weird bleached blond hair thing.
Which is the second major problem with the movie. If you’re going to make Benedict Cumberbatch the star of the movie, he’s got to look like Benedict Cumberbatch. And that bleached blond hair look is seriously icky. Especially when it’s hanging in greasy strands across his face. More importantly, Julian Assange is not a particularly sympathetic character as depicted in the movie. Mind you, I doubt that he is a sympathetic character in real life. (Visionaries who want to transform the world seldom are.) And in the movie, he is portrayed as a man who can be immensely charming and charismatic when he chooses to be, but is, more often, manipulative, arrogant, sanctimonious, and highly self-centered. (Fans of the BBC “Sherlock” series might note the resemblance between the highly functioning sociopath that is Sherlock Holmes and the self-absorbed and self-righteous Julian Assange.)
All that being said, I really enjoyed the movie. The acting by all the major characters is impeccable. And the movie deals with the issue of how to maintain security in a world that is heavily reliant on the Internet and its lack of national borders. It deals with moral issues relating to national security, friendship, and greed. The movie gives you a lot to think about and doesn’t leave you with any easy answers. It’s well worth watching and pondering.