Last week I commented on how director Bill Condon (best known for 2005’s Dreamgirls) really has his work cut out for him on The Fifth Estate, his dramatization of the story of Julian Assange and Wikileaks. That’s because Alex Gibney, be it in documentary form, has already built a brilliant thriller out of the story with We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks. Given that film went above the call of duty in deconstructing Assange’s public and private inconsistencies, one wonders what Condon can bring to the table now that’s fresh.
From the first trailer, though, I feel like The Fifth Estate is just going to be playing out the typical espionage thriller beats, be them working off of a highly publicized news event as template. Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Julian Assange, but so far it doesn’t look like the showboat sort of performance that’ll breach the Academy walls. More significantly, since We Steal Secrets painted him in quite the egotistical light, I worry they’re painting Assange in too favorable a light. “If we had someone like you, the Berlin wall would have come down years before,” an admirer shines onto Assange as inspirational music builds in the background.
Emerging talent Daniel Bruhl also stars as Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Julian’s partner in hacking, but he’s even less a presence in this trailer than Cumberbatch. The film looks very much like it’s going off the success of films like The Social Network, both in style and the dramatic plot of two colleagues falling out over a huge project. Stanley Tucci, Laura Linney and David Thewlis also round out the ensemble, which puts this in closer territory to a Michael Mann thriller like The Insider. We’ll have to wait to see if the film’s anything more than that, hopefully making some significant statement about its society through its thriller story. Take a look at the trailer here, but then come back and discuss your own thoughts on it.