The Fifth Estate (Blu-ray)

January 24, 2014 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

The internet.  Where to begin?  It’s allowed the world to connect in ways we’ve never thought of before, has made billionaires out of “computer geeks” and has allowed film buffs with sub-level intelligence to publish web sites.  God bless it.  But as long as there’s an outlet, there will always be those that will use it for both good and bad.  Corruption, power, greed and any other sin exist in the world and until now we’ve had the luxury of having it hidden from us.  With the “invention” of Wiki Leaks, however, that all changed.  I was never too familiar with the site, though I’d heard it mentioned in the news. I really don’t care to know the home numbers of the members of Parliament, I don’t really particularity want to read the details of the number of civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan and the don’t want to listen or read 250,000 government wires.  Simply put, this sort of things just doesn’t interest me. But I’m in the minority and no matter what I think or say, it was a big deal. The Fifth Estate chronicles the story of Wiki Leaks and does it in a most unique manner.  I’m reminded of Paul Verehoven’s Starship Troopers when I say…”Would you like to know more?”

Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a prodigy. He’s written thousands of lines of code in his life and he’s on the verge of something big.  He’s got a site that supposedly has hundreds of volunteers for the collaboration of information. More simply put, it’s a whistle-blowing web site.  But the problem with blowing the whistle is the probability of getting caught.  Who wants to volunteer their information if they server time or get a bullet in the head as a result of it?  No one.  But WikiLeaks has an upload platform that allows users to anonymously  contribute their documents which, in turn, are published on the web site for all to see.  Together with the help of his number two man, Daniel Berg (Daniel Brühl), the dream becomes a reality.  Told in a flashback form, The Fifth Estate essentially is the telling of how this site came to be, its obstacles and how they literally managed to shake the world up.  Based on the book, WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World’s Most Dangerous Website by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, it’s a chilling and dare I say, interesting look at one of the most influential web sites to ever exist.

Admittedly The Fifth Estate isn’t the perfect movie, but it’s a good look into the site and the controversy that surrounded it.  I was taken in, as I tend to be with tech-related issues, from the start and once I got past Cumberbatch’s accent, really enjoyed it.  I don’t know how valid the information is as it’s told via an obviously bias point of view and I’m kind of afraid to even visit for for of the FBI beating down my door the next day!  Still, it showed the range of Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch and coming off his critical success in Star Trek: Into Darkness, this was a worthwhile follow up.  I could have done without the love interest story between Berg and his girlfriend, but I suppose every movie needs a female lead.  For better or worse, people are out there chaining the world and though it’s debatable as to how good or bad an influence WikiLeaks is, it has made its mark on the world.

Video: How’s it look?

I have to admit that the opening sequence that somewhat gives us the history of media and communication is among one of the more interesting I’ve seen. We see everything from the formation of individual letters from the Gutenberg Press to the instant communication we experience today. The 2.40:1 AVC HD image has a darker look and feel to it that complicates the mood.  This is contrasted with Benedict Cumberbatch’s almost stark, albino-like appearance with mane of white hair and all.  The supplements tell us of the graphics and interfaces used throughout, which sets the mood, tone and standard.  Being a new to Blu-ray release, I’d expect nothing less and Dreamworks has delivered the goods here.

Audio: How’s it sound?

There’s a very understated quality to this DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack, one that I found pretty intriguing.  Yes, intriguing. On one hand, it’s not in your face and one that blows the speakers off their stands (or shelves), but on another it packs a punch that I really wasn’t expecting.  It’s robust.  Vocals are rock solid and we can hear Benedict Cumberbatch’s rather unique Scandanavian accent with the utmost clarity.  Surrounds are used with effectiveness, the LFE come into play once or twice and the overall feel and beat of Carter Burwell’s score rounds out what I consider to be a great-sounding track.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The extras leave a bit to be desired, but what’s included I actually found rather interesting.

  • The Submission Platform: Visual Effects – Words on a screen or the camera over someone typing on a laptop would be boring. This shows the “world” that really brought the information to life, so to speak. I rather liked it and I too, though of The Apartment.
  • In-Camera: Graphics – Like the anonymous office used in the upload platform, we see how the information is “buried” under the useless text. This shows the concept and design of how they made this happen.
  • Scoring Secrets (HD, 9 minutes): Carter Burwell explains his motivation for the score, its innovation and the overall mood.

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