“The Fifth Estate” is Bill Condon’s new movie about celebrity and journalism in the Internet age, and it isn’t about Miley Cyrus' blog posts.
Instead, the subjects of the director’s cameras are Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, a fictional companion piece to Alex Gibney’s documentary “We Steal Secrets.”
Critics were less than overwhelmed by the film at the Toronto International Film Festival, which “The Fifth Estate” opened Thursday night.
While reviewers found plenty to like in the movie, including star Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as Assange, they felt that the plot (the script is by “West Wing” veteran Josh Singer) meandered and that the overall experience was dramatically dull and emotionally uninvolving.
“The Fifth Estate” will be released by Walt Disney Co. on Oct. 18.
Here’s a roundup of critical reaction from Toronto:
"... though it traffics in life and death and threats to the world's great institutions, [it] isn't always as gripping as a film whose main drama was who would get rich over letting "friends" share party pictures. Though it will attract attention at the box office, it is unlikely to appeal broadly to moviegoers who, one suspects, have never been as worked up about WikiLeaks as journalists and governments are."
"... in adapting both a book on the affair by Guardian journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding, as well as tech activist Daniel Domscheit-Berg's account of working for Assange, 'The Fifth Estate' is a project in whose sources one can place considerable faith. Certainly, Condon does. At times it can feel he's risked coherence for chronology, giving us his own surfeit of data without offering sufficient kit with which we can sift it."
"Aiming to provide the kind of speculative personality portrait behind another sweeping digital-age change in communication that touches nearly everyone, a la 'The Social Network,' helmer Bill Condon and scenarist Josh Singer’s film must also stuff in a heavy load of global events, all in a hyperkinetic style aping today’s speed of information dispersal. Results can’t help but stimulate, but they’re also cluttered and overly frenetic, resulting in a narrative less informative, cogent and even emotionally engaging than Alex Gibney’s recent docu 'We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks.'"
"... the movie’s style feels second-hand: an overeager, slightly shop-worn bombardment of finger-on-the-pulse pop-out graphics, representing the giddy proliferation of voices in the misinformation age by simply filling the screen with text."
"With so many factors in play and Assange's fate still developing, the idea of an Assange biopic might seem premature. But that's the least problematic issue plaguing Bill Condon's 'The Fifth Estate,' an uneven, intermittently thoughtful but largely preachy overview of WikiLeaks' rising influence that has less of an issue determining Assange's character than it does with telling a compelling story."
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