Sunday, 13 October 2013


Recent history doesn't have to be such a drudge. Certainly not as compelling a story as this! Yet Bill Condon's spirited but lazy The Fifth Estate is a bland, by-the-numbers political thriller, about as striking as a plastic carrier bag and half as interesting, despite gigantic efforts to achieve otherwise behind the camera. Everybody's so laser-focused on cranking up the drama and tension that they fail to see that the strengths in this scenario lie elsewhere. Any and every other similar film has shot for the same target, and it's not too hard to hit. And though knowing the ending might not be so detrimental to other stories, somehow it is here, as we navigate the flat, linear story to a conclusion that is of little significance - where does one find the will to care about something we've seen coming all along, and which doesn't even represent much of a game-changer in the lives of those implicated? Condon has learnt a lot from his stint directing vapid YA shite, adopting the same trite, half-asleep style here as he did with his Twilight films, and making editor Virginia Katz do all the work. Katz is a very talented editor, but she kind of smothers this film with overactive, if sometimes mercifully so, cutting. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, with a nourishing accuracy, slipping smoothly into character rather than grandstanding, and he's uncanny to the point that Benedict disappears entirely from your thoughts, and is replaced by Julian - this happens very early on, actually. But he's far and away the best thing in a rote film - commanding in his restraint, while the film is anaesthetising in its bluster.