As riveting as any Bourne thriller and reminiscent of classic 70's films like "Day of the Jackal", 2013's THE FIFTH ESTATE is a globe trotting look at Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
As the film opens Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch in another great performance) has developed a powerful internet platform for exposing secrets. He partners with respectful admirer Daniel Domscheit-Berg to expose a German bank hiding millions of dollars overseas.
As these two set the rules (#1 protect all sources, #2 always publish all documents without editing them) and find their website becoming more and more powerful by the week, the secrets become bigger and the ramifications more global.
Soon, Wikileaks has grown from its only-imagined startup size to a major news source with hundreds of contributors and millions or readers.
Assange is portrayed as a borderline personality disorder eccentric whose ego grows along with his platform for exposing the world's darkest secrets.
Daniel Bruhl (Inglorious Basterds, Rush) is excellent as Berg, who sacrifices almost everything in his life to be part of Assange's movement, but finds a dangerous man lurking beneath the polished surface.
When Assange comes into possession of a quarter million US Military documents, detailing not only war plans, but secret allies and informants in Afghanastan and the Middle East, the rules of Wikileaks are tested in a battle of egos and the blurry ethics of the internet.
This film was a huge bomb in theatres, driving one of the worst opening week per-theatre sales in history. It's hard to see why, as Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Gods and Monsters) has managed to turn all the internet espionage into a fast moving thriller with imaginative images, graphics and the pace of a Bond flick.
The film has a lot of interesting things to say and while its easy to consider Assange an enemy of the US for releasing the documents, you may have to reexamine your position after seeing the arc of intention versus execution by the Wikileaks team, who cover every spectrum of commitment to the cause versus how far they will go to deliver secrets.
As Laura Linney, portraying a real US diplomat in the film says, "One wonders what history will judge more harshly, the people exposing these secrets or the parties that perpetrated the lies, the killing and the actions that are exposed."
The film will make you think and entertain you while it does so.
The Fifth Estate is First Rate and gets an A.