The Fifth Estate


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Are people allowed to have secrets?

The Fifth Estate

Swift shot: That seems to be the question of the early Twenty-First century, are people (and institutions) permitted to have secrets? The Fifth Estate does a fair job making an argument, but overall the audience is left wondering what the answer should be. This is to the film’s credit. The downfall lies in the politics, the ego, and the pride of the film-makers and the story-teller, Daniel Berg (Daniel Bruhl). His one-sided account of the Julian Assange show, essentially, was compelling, but lacking a truth that Benedict Cumberbatch, as Assange points out at the end of the film.

In 1991, a US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt attacked a column of armored vehicles in Desert Storm.  That pilot accidentally killed seven US Marines.

In 2009, US Army Apache choppers descended into enemy occupied Iraq and opened fire on what they thought were armed combatants.  That pilot accidentally killed several members of a Reuters team.

Both of these events were tragic – one was highly politicized and was used to smear American involvement in the Gulf.  More to the point, it was used to showcase the ego of a true menace to society, a man who thinks that he is allowed to have secrets, but anyone who gets in his way, can’t.  Make no mistake, Assange is no hero – he’s a narcissist of the worst kind, a man without scruples nor honor.

I’ll be damned if I am going to sit here and praise him for exposing national secrets and sources, jeopardizing American and allied lives.  If you see this movie and think he is some kind of hero, you are delusional at best and probably just can’t see past your admiration for Cumberbatch.  Cumberbatch, of course, does an excellent job, and I found myself many times forgetting he was playing a part.

What may have started as a noble effort for Assange and his “army” (exposing corruption and extortion), quickly turned into a rabid zealousness to “scoop” other reporters.  In the end, that’s all you really get with WikiLeaks – as Assange put it “editing reflects bias – we don’t edit.”  Actually, they do, to cover their asses and protect their sources . . . while institutions run contrary to anarchy, so they are ripe for attack.  See, Assange is just a white-haired hypocrite.  He’s no anarchist; his institution is WikiLeaks.  Does he want his secrets exposed?

The film-makers tried to mirror a better film, The Social Network, by showing how WikiLeaks was formed.  But unless you are a legit coder/hacker, it becomes tedious to watch.  Daniel has an interesting story-line, but again, he comes off as almost deific – so I call the source material into question.  All people have faults, and all people fuck up occasionally . . . even (and especially) institutions.

The Fifth Estate suffers as a real thriller, because the tension between Daniel and Julian is never really given the room to be as compelling as the film-makers pretend it is.  Julian is just an annoying asshole, Daniel is his willing lackey, and the film bounces from location to location and only really gets interesting when real lives are in danger.  There is tension, and that’s what makes this film decent enough.  And there were some intriguing social questions raised that may linger with you well after the credits roll.  But I just felt like we weren’t being told the truth by anyone.  There is almost zero levity, and most of the perceived tension is fabricated.  Only one time was I genuinely concerned for a character in the film.

And, if you are hoping to get any kind of back-story on Pvt Manning – this country’s worst traitor, ever . . . you’ll be disappointed.  Maybe some film-makers will put that story out soon, and we will be told the “truth” – whatever the hell that means anymore.  

Before I close, I want to publicly SHAME the film-makers for their pathetically veiled attempt at providing cover for ANYTHING Hillary Clinton did in the past, or will ever do in the future, by having one of her cronies admit to signing something in Hillary’s name.  This clever editing will allow her apologists to close ranks on any investigation that might show papers with her signature.  It was gutless manipulation of an already brain-washed myopic mass of entitled spenders with no care for their freedom, their privacy, nor any semblance of honor.

Enjoy your secrets, you know WikiLeaks and the NSA are always watching.


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