Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema Going Nowhere

Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema Going Nowhere

Article excerpt

The Fifth Estate 15, Nationwide Just how interesting you find The Fifth Estate may entirely depend on how interested you are in the whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, in the first instance. This does not do what Senna did, for example, or what The Social Network did, and grip you in the places you didn't know you could be gripped with a subject matter you'd no idea could be gripping. It's not like that and I'll tell you for why, in bullet points, because I'm just in a bullet-y mood today, and if you don't use your bullet points - we are all allocated a certain amount at birth - they will start to atrophy and rot. So here we are:

* This isn't dramatically exciting as so much of the action happens in the form of men with worried brows tapping away on laptops, or wandering around airports, and watching someone wander around an airport is like wandering around an airport yourself; so mind-killingly boring you actually think it might be a good idea to buy a Mont Blanc pen, or even pay £10 to enter a competition and probably not win a sports car.

* It assumes knowledge, particularly technical knowledge - what are these 'servers' they speak of? Why are they critical? - then attempts to rectify this by inserting clunky chunks of exposition that will lose you anyhow.

* It never conveys why, if we are not much interested, we should be interested, or why any of this should exercise us as it does the Guardian, which gets very exercised indeed.

* Benedict Cumberbatch's performance as Assange is obviously the highlight, but he can't hold this together as a 'performance film' in the way Meryl Streep held together The Iron Lady, or Colin Firth held together The King's Speech, because Assange remains opaque, and we don't learn anything about him beyond what we know already, which is that he is the sort of person who falls out with everybody and will one day probably fall out with himself. (He'll stop taking his own calls, although if he were to visit himself in the Ecuadorian embassy, how he will pretend to be out I just don't know. ) Now I've used my bullets, which is good - I think they were right on the verge of rotting - I'll go back to normal. OK, so this tries to tell the WikiLeaks story through Assange's relationship with Daniel Berg (Daniel Bruhl), his right-hand man in the run-up to the 2010 release of the 'Iraq war logs'. …

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