The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024

‘The Fifth Estate’ leaves judgement to the audience

‘The Fifth Estate’ leaves judgement to the audience
Film Review The Fifth Estate
This image released by Dreamworks Pictures shows Dan Stevens as journalist Ian Katz, left, and Benedict Cumberbatch as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a scene from “The Fifth Estate.” (AP Photo/Dreamworks Pictures, Frank Connor)

The “journalist as patriot” has gone through great lengths to shape public imagination in the journalist’s favor.

One cannot help but think of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in “All the President’s Men” — tireless crusaders of truth against an evil government for the sake of the public.

There’s no greater canon for journalists, or stereotype for that matter.

Journalism’s milestones today, like all milestones today, are shrouded in uncertainty.

Is WikiLeaks a public boon or diplomatic nightmare?

Is editor-in-chief and founder Julian Assange a hero or selfish glory-seeker?

“The Fifth Estate” plays with and sustains this tone of uncertainty for the entire duration of the dramatic thriller.

The film, based on a true story, explores the controversial news-leaking website, WikiLeaks.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s take on Assange is surprisingly warm, even humorous.

Women fall for him, men clutch themselves in false-dismissal – a real avatar of cool for geekdom.

He’s also eccentric, mean, rude, sanctimonious and even a little sensitive.

One choice Assange retort to a cow farmer’s “insult”: “Do you milk those yourself or do you get someone else to do it for you,” followed by a jerking motion.

Assange needs a person practical enough to balance out his creative purity — enter Daniel Bruhl as former WikiLeaks spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

Domscheit-Berg’s character perhaps receives the most sympathetic portrayal here.

His belief in Assange never becomes sycophantic, somehow keeping his life in order amid constant threat until his morals finally destroy his relationship with Assange.

“The Fifth Estate” exists in a curious place among its peers.

Films that touch on the here and now are arguably more open to interpretation than ever.

“The Social Network” (2010) is a good comparison — the film about Harvard student and future Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg shares similarities in the deceptively warm visual tones, arrogant history makers and a buzzing controversy.

“The Fifth Estate” ups the ante, actively calling out audiences to judge matters for themselves.

This is Generation Y of course, Y as in You.

This is a rewarding movie, honoring WikiLeaks’ goal while painting its founder as an egotist with good intentions.

Oh, and do not worry about the two-hour length — there’s enough meat to latch onto until the credits roll.

“The Fifth Estate” is now in theaters.

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