The Fifth Estate Movie Poster Image

The Fifth Estate

(i)

 

Confusing WikiLeaks docudrama mostly avoids iffy content.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 128 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Attempts to explore and balance the complex issue of transparency (the public's right to know) versus the necessity for government secrecy. Suggests that institutional corruption is common; it must be reported and the perpetrators held responsible for their actions. Questions the morality of hacking to secure crucial information. Contends that "absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Positive role models

Looks at the motivations of both whistleblowers and the mainstream media to show positive outcomes of their efforts as well as the danger of obsession and self-interest. Central character is portrayed as having good intentions initially, but losing sight of right and wrong as his influence grows. The other character (on whose book the movie is based) is shown as the most moral character. Strives for some fairness in its depiction of government officials and media personnel.

Violence

Two men are killed by gunfire at point blank range while sitting in a car and the camera lingers on the bloody windshield. Video footage of soldiers killing civilians in a way that seems callous. Newsreel footage briefly shows rioting, police repression, beatings, effects of starvation. A tense series of scenes where it seems a man, woman, and baby might be in danger.

Sex

An adult couple is shown kissing, beginning to undress, engaging in moderate foreplay in several scenes. They are also seen lying in bed together after sex.

Language

Some swearing and obscenities: numerous instances of "f--k," "s--t," "Goddamn," "hell." Also "a--hole" and "pr--k."

Consumerism

A shot of a McDonald's franchise; World of Warcraft game is mentioned, as is WIRED magazine. Various actual newspapers, banks, organizations are included as part of the story.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults are seen drinking various alcoholic beverages in numerous settings: party, restaurants, at home, while working. A man is driving as he swigs from a bottle which may contain beer.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that most kids will have little interest in The Fifth Estate, a docudrama about WikiLeaks, its founder Julian Assange, and the release of classified government documents. The film deals with complex issues such as whistleblowing, privacy rights, hacking, and media responsibility. Hand-held camerawork, edgy fast-paced editing, and dizzying split-screen shots of computer data further speed up and confuse these already sophisticated concepts. Aside from the topics addressed, the main issues that might concern parents are the occasional but strong language (including multiple uses of "f--k" and "s--t") and the scene where two men are shot point blank in their car and the camera lingers on blood. There's also some passionate kissing between a couple and the implication of sex.

Parents say

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What's the story?

THE FIFTH ESTATE takes on WikiLeaks from its launch, as remembered by Daniel Berg whose split from Julian Assange, the whistleblower-founder, was explosive and complete. Though initially the website was devoted to exposing corruption and criminality (early subjects detailed in the film are Swiss bank Julius Baer, the Kenyan government, and the Icelandic financial crisis), the body of the film thrusts WikiLeaks' Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) into a battle with the United States over the release of a massive number of classified documents. Throughout the conflict, WikiLeaks' associate Berg (Daniel Bruhl) struggles to stay in a committed relationship with his girlfriend, to maintain his own sense of right and wrong, and to deal with Assange's increasingly maniacal egotism. When it becomes clear that the leaks will endanger operatives throughout the world, the stakes get higher and Berg, along with government officials and some members of the mainstream media, must take drastic steps.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

Admittedly, clarity is difficult when so much of the story depends upon on-screen computer data, hacking, and issues that cannot be immediately classified as black or white. Unfortunately, the filmmakers, led by director Bill Condon, have opted for a complex storytelling style, including rapid-fire editing, harsh angles, multiple split-screen sequences, visual metaphors, and other techniques that are designed to speed up and intensify audience reaction.

The result? Rather than simplify what is already a complex tale with crucial issues at its core, the film will probably turn off audiences with side stories designed to extrude emotion, but which just add to the haphazard narrative. Also, the movie will have little appeal for kids, even older ones, unless they are well-versed and interested in these true events. Alex Gibney's documentary We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks offers a better and clearer look at Julian Assange and his operation.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can discuss the differences between docudramas and documentaries. How much truth do you think can be compromised in either type of film in order to make a movie entertaining or persuasive?

  • The source material is Daniel Berg's book "Inside WikiLeaks..." Why is important to know the origins of the film's point-of-view?

  • Find out more about the actual events depicted in this movie. What resources are available to you?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 18, 2013
DVD/Streaming release date:January 28, 2014
Cast:Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, David Thewlis
Director:Bill Condon
Studio:DreamWorks
Genre:Drama
Topics:History, Misfits and underdogs
Run time:128 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language and some violence

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Teen, 17 years old Written byB-KMastah November 10, 2013

SCREAMS "made for TV" and whimpers with its poor script.

If you need proof that less is more, this is your ultimate example. This movie has an opening montage sequence that took over a year to create; and that's just the beginning of The Fifth Estate's ill-formed priorities. I wouldn't have thought that the recounting of a story so interesting could be so dull, but it is thanks to its information overload, which is exacerbated by the middling screenplay and poor direction. The film has no real character yet insists on carrying on so many events that not a single film should. The movie is over two hours, although it does not deserve to have a duration of over 100 minutes (or possibly shorter). The direction actually just pissed me off; everything from the titles, title cards, music choices, camerawork, and transitions - and even the score to an extent - all scream "made for mediocre TV." It's very rarely thrilling, yet it is labeled a thriller. There is one moment around the 75 minute mark that captures your attention for about five minutes, then goes away. Yet again, the script tries to balance too much and the direction just shrugs the issue off. The acting is good from everyone. Benedict Cumberbatch is stellar; he perfectly captures Julian Assange with the voice, awkward mannerisms, and rigid characteristics. However, not even his character is given that much to go with. He isn't analyzed or explored until the last six minutes, and that's incredibly underwhelming. It's like they rely on the audience's previous knowledge on Assange to ditch character development instead of actually writing it into the script. Again, the script is lame. 4.3/10, bad, two thumbs down, below average, etc.
What other families should know
Too much swearing

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