Customer Reviews: The Fifth Estate (Blu-ray / DVD + Digital Copy)
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon January 30, 2014
In light of it's mixed critical response and box office failure, I avoided THE FIFTH ESTATE for a long time. More fool me. Having seen the film with an open mind, I now have no idea why the film was viewed so negatively. Was it because critics did not agree with Assange as a person? Did they feel the film didn't give enough insight into Wikileaks? Did they have a problem with the pacing? I don't know.

Right from the opening scene - a hugely ambitious montage of human knowledge through the ages, The Fifth Estate establishes itself as stylish and riveting. Benedict Cumberbatch hits the nail home as Julian Assange! His crazy Aussie cyber-punk bent on transparency and informational freedom is in many ways his most mature, compelling performance. Daniel Bruhl is the human centre of the film, giving a relatable, conflicted performance of depth and subtlety. The outstanding cast is rounded off by an excellent David Thewlis, Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens, future-Doctor Peter Capaldi, and an entertaining Laura Linney and Stanley Tucci. When the screenplay gets wonky, Condon's cast brings home the message like a hammer.

Equally impressive is Tobias Schliessler's rich and vibrant neo-noir visuals. Coupled with the fantastic Carter Burwell's score, we have a film that is technically adept AND terrifically acted. Now we come to the screenplay, and this is where I have to disagree with the critics. It is tremendously hard to write a screenplay on WikiLeaks that has a satisfying conclusion, especially considering how the story of Assange and WikiLeaks is ongoing and actually rather anticlimactic. But Josh Singer managed to make his story satisfying and relevant...a feat I give the film credit for.

CONS: Singer's screenplay, while structured well, just doesn't give us enough insight into Assange's incredible character other than through exposition. Who knows how great a film THE FIFTH ESTATE could be if Condon and Co. went all out with a dangerous, edgy look at WikiLeaks? At times the film feels like a globe-trotting adventure as characters hop from Brussels to Berlin to Iceland and Kenya without much breath in between. And as the REAL Assange has so succinctly pointed out, there is something to be desired in the accuracy department here.

But in conclusion, I really enjoyed THE FIFTH ESTATE - much more than I anticipated. Benedict Cumberbatch gives an electric and outstanding performance, and is supported by an experienced and smart supporting cast. The film is technically adept, moving, and actually quite thought-provoking. I can safely recommend THE FIFTH ESTATE as flawed, but riveting entertainment. My rating: Four Estates out of Five. If this review is helpful in your decision (or not) to purchase this film, please give it a like.
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on November 2, 2013
First - this movie is worth the price just to watch Benedict Cumberbatch deliver this extraordinary performance. The scene at Domscheit-Berg's parent's house alone should garner him a nomination. Second - it's actually quite a good picture with a flawed opening that presumes the audience is already quite familiar with Wikileaks and the story. Most Americans aren't that familiar and so, we are a bit lost at first.

It's true that the original intention was to do a hatchet job on Assange. As most know who followed the film's progress, Cumberbatch refused and that's reflected in the picture. But whatever BS they tried to get away with, it's totally worth the price for what it does deliver: information most Americans don't have. Our government tried to ban access to the Wikileaks, they seized the site. How and why that happened is pretty interesting. As Assange says "This is information the world needs to know." It does. Don't let naysayers put you off. Don't miss this.
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on February 21, 2014
Most of the reviews for this film were strongly negative, although they did give praise to the performance of Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange. I saw this film in the theater and loved it. Yes, you need to actually pay attention to what is going on - you need to engage your brain to follow the plot. If you do, you will be rewarded with an interesting and discussion provoking look at a situation that warrants our consideration. You will also be able to experience a formidable actor portraying, beautifully and deeply, one of the most controversial and provocative figures of our time.
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on October 20, 2013
Everyone seems to be mad at this movie because everyone who talks about it comes to it with a strong opinion about Julian Assange, and they wanted the film to depict him as a savior or a monster. I didn't have those preconceptions and I enjoyed the film from the opening title sequence. That sequence depicts hands carving hieroglyphics in Ancient Egypt, illuminated manuscripts, the first printing press, newspapers, computers - the myriad ways humans communicate. It's a title sequence Frank Capra would love.

I found "The Fifth Estate" intriguing, fun, and moving. Benedict Cumberbatch is very good as Assange. The movie wants you to be impressed by him at first, but slowly to see his feet of clay, and Cumberbatch does that job. Daniel Bruhl plays Daniel Domscheit Berg, Assange's partner. Bruhl expresses disappointed hero worship very well. Assange is invited to Berg's home for dinner, and he disrespects Berg's polite parents. That intimate, believable scene makes you hate Assange in a way that his secret-releasing shenanigans might not.

"The Fifth Estate" struggles, as all computer-related films do, to depict life on a computer. It creates a fake office with the sky as ceiling where Assange's "volunteers" work. Assange describes his submission process at Wikileaks and pages appear onscreen. These visual flourishes are fun.

The movie is interesting and fast-moving but not very deep. There are very big questions at play here and "The Fifth Estate" does not engage them deeply. Laura Linney plays Sarah, an American agent whose contact, Tarek, is endangered by Assange's revelations. There is some tension as Tarek flees Libya. Will he get out before Assange outs him, or will he and his family be captured and perhaps tortured by their oppressive government?

Perhaps if "The Fifth Estate" had been more art than docudrama it could have gone deeper. Imagine a conversation between Sarah and Assange. One could argue for the importance, both strategic and humanitarian, of state secrets, and the other could argue against. Other questions - aren't secrets inevitable? Accept it: there is stuff you are simply never going to know.

And, in the end, what difference did Assange make? The US is still in Afghanistan. Guantanamo still operates. People will pay more attention to Miley Cyrus twerking than to documents about torture in a Third World nation. Someone said once of the Cambodian genocide that no one will ever read all the documents the Khmer Rouge amassed. No one cares enough to do so.

Laura Linney is every bit the actor that Benedict Cumberbatch is. I'd love to have heard these two characters have this conversation.
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on February 19, 2014
The film opens with a 4,000 year montage history of the fifth estate during the credits leading up to Wikileaks in July of 2010. The story centers on the personality of Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his association with Daniel Berg (Daniel Brohl). Much of the film is dedicated to the nuts and bolts of the process than the havoc it caused. The film calls Julian a "mad prophet." He is portrayed as an arrogant egotistical a##hole who is mono-focused, psychotic, and more nervous than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

The message of the film is that the free press takes courage, martyrs , and anarchists. I couldn't help think about Leon Trotsky, who revealed all the secret treaties held by the Czar, claiming that government secrets are class warfare. They are kept to protect the privileged members of society. Indeed, this film exposes that aspect of secrets, but it has a complexity that questions if all secrets should be told when there are innocent lives at stake.

Parental Guide: F-bomb, near sex, no nudity.
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on June 30, 2014
It's clear that because of this story's importance the project attracted some top talent all of whom deliver quality work. The problem with this piece is its choice of source material which, admittedly, is currently limited.

As an analogy for whether or not you would choose to watch this film ask yourself if you are first a fan of what Julian Assange has contributed to society and journalism. If you think he's a creep, you'll love this movie, which is told from the point of view by a person who was Assange's right arm until Assange kicked him out of WikiLeaks.

A comparison would be: what if a movie were made about Jesus but the source material was taken from a book written by Judas? In such a version Judas would be the hero and therefore Jesus, according to the rules of story telling would have to come off as an egotistical, megalomaniac who cared primarily for glory. Judas, conversely, would come off as the voice of reason who betrayed his master for the greater good.

This is the version of the WikiLeaks story you will see in The Fifth Estate.

Aside from the fact that this is a one-sided telling of the story there are other problems with this piece from a filmmaking point of view. First, it is extremely long and second it is packed with tons of information to which you must pay very close attention. Watch this movie with a large coffee and your finger on the pause button because it is the only way you'll be able to follow the nuance and minutia of detail necessary to understand the character's motivations.

For example: for reasons I cannot understand the filmmakers decided to frame shots that include words you're supposed to read off laptop screens with the laptop framed in a medium-shot. Meaning, it's like reading micro font and because of the fast-paced editing you get mere seconds to assimilate important data.

For this reason I deducted two stars. This is a ok first effort on telling the WikiLeaks story but history will demand a need for more versions.
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on January 30, 2014
I rented this knowing little about Assange. I was looking for something new from Benedict Cumberbatch, after enjoying his portrayls of brilliant, driven, emotionally bottled-up men in "Sherlock" and "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy".

Blessedly, the portrait of Assange we get here is neither pure sinner nor pure saint. He is a man of contradictions -- he insists on publishing the whole, unvarnished truth, but frequently lies about himself, on subjects great and small -- how many people work for him? what are his motives in publishing leaks? and even, why did his hair turn white?

Other viewers may focus on whether this movie was accurate or not. I admit that wasn't my primary concern -- it's a thriller, not a documentary, and it works for what it is. The movie delivers a mounting sense of danger, and the visuals stayed interesting, in spite of the fact that the action often consisted of people typing and reading messages. (They did have one too many people punctuate a conversation by slamming their laptop shut, for my taste.)

"The Fifth Estate" left me curious to know more about the history of WikiLeaks. The question is, who's telling the truth?
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Director Bill Condon (God's and Mosnters, Dreamgirls) does a true-to-life job telling the story of Julian Assange, the man who discovered classified and government secrets from around the world and released the information to the general public anonymously. "The Fifth Estate" gives us a look at the man and his reasoning for doing what he did. Many believe it was a dangerous thing for Assange to do and others believe that these secrets should have always been released but governments feel that hiding the "truth" is in the best interest of the general public.

Josh Singer's (Fringe, The West Wing) adaption of the two books the film is based on "Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website" and "WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy" was amazingly detailed. The depth and intricacies of the characters and how they developed were amazingly intertwined and complex yet interesting to the end.

Another hats off again to Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek, Sherlock) who portrays Julian with such gusto and belief that it's hard to feel anything but envy for this determined, smart, real sharp person - genius - who can technologically beat technology. Benedict does such an amazing job with his dialogue, appearance and intensity it makes all the other characters in the film seem to gravitate toward him.

Daniel Bruhl (The Bourne Ultimatum, Inglorious Bastards) plays another up and coming genius who is confounded by Benedict accuracy, detail and intelligence that ultimately he has the moral dilemma of doing the right thing. Or should he? Should he be involved with divulging information that no one should know to the whole world or should he not? Benedict and Daniel have amazing on screen chemistry and gravitas together.

Of course the film is sprinkled with a love interest played by Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair, Pure) which tends to slow the films pace a little, but the morality of what to do about information that no one is supposed to know is intriguing to say the very least and her character ads a little more color to the morale issues at hand.

I liked the films detail and energy and except for the love interest aspect, the movie will definitely make you question your own moral center. This is a smart film, smartly made. Very well acted by Benedict, this film might just surprise you in more ways the one.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon February 10, 2016
I remember when this movie first hit theaters, I was conflicted about seeing it. It got generally poor reviews and certainly didn’t do well in its initial release. Before I knew it, gone. I became interested again as the central figure, Julian Assange was back in the news. In addition, actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Alicia Vikander have risen high into the “A-list” seemingly in more films than there is time for.

Director Bill Condon (“Mr. Holmes” and a couple “Twilight Saga” films) takes an even keel approach to Assange as he evolves from a teen-age hacker to whom some would call a cyber-terrorist. Most recognize Assange as the WikiLeaks guy who leaked hundreds of thousands of secret cables and military secrets thanks to army corporal Bradley Manning. Early on Assange is seen as somewhat sympathetic as his sources leak information involving government corruption, illegal bank money laundering and the like. Assange, is essentially a one-man show and a computer wizard. As opportunities increase, he brings on board another interested in his mission. Daniel Berg (Daniel Bruhl) joins forces and becomes somewhat of a moral compass as Assange is bent upon releasing all documents, even if un-redacted names put his sources in mortal danger. Ms. Vikander plays Anke Domscheit, Daniel’s girlfriend and confidant.

I can appreciate the dilemma a director has trying to make material like this interesting. It just isn’t sexy. But as deadlines and time constraints close in on the big reveal (the massive leaks involving the “The New York Times, “The London Guardian” and Germany’s “Der Spiegel,” Condon and his crew spin the camera in a circle, heightening the confusion and making the viewer dizzy. Cumberbatch has been lauded for his performance but I was unimpressed. He doesn’t seem to know what Assange is thinking much of the time. I don’t know if this is because the director and writer weren’t sure or what. I just thought he was miscast, although he pulls off the Aussie accent well. The better performance is by Bruhl who may have more screen time and is certainly more sympathetic. Assange’s ego and seraphic belief of unadulterated information will save the world becomes his undoing. His coining of “the fifth estate” (unfiltered free information) is based on the principals of “the fourth estate” being the press, the watchdog of the first 3 (government) estates.

The Blu ray package (includes a DVD) and comes with a 1080p video resolution with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The movie looks great with excellent black levels, proper coloring and accurate skin-tones. Detail is excellent with plenty of close-ups getting down to the pores. I found no anomalies or inconsistencies. Well done. The audio comes by way of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. It is equally well done, with a surprising use of the surrounds and the LFE channel, all very effective. Good dynamics and well positioned dialog. You might have to run the amp up a bit as some of the non-American English can be difficult to understand at times. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French. There are 3 extras. Two deal with the technical aspects of filming computer screens and other “visualizations.” The other features composer Carter Burwell discussing the very effective musical score.
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on January 28, 2014
Brilliant acting by Benedict Cumberbatch. Extra points for wearing a piratebay tshirt :)

It's important to remember that this movie is the screen writer's version of what happened based on many different sources but not the man himself. Stories have been created where there were none, while other incidences that happened were not shown. About 35% of this movie is actually true. Seriously though, no American diplomat (especially a white woman) walks into a tea house in an Arab country alone, has a conversation with an agent, and then goes back to Air Force One... seriously!

There are many movies out on wikileaks; this movie tries to create a picture of what Julian Assange is like as a person, his relationships, his issues. In the end, it's important that we not weaken the importance of any of the leaked information by focusing on the personal habits of a middle man.
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