The Fifth Estate Review: David And Goliath Demonization Of Wikileaks


It would seem unusual to label a dramatic feature a biopic, when the content is based solely on the accusations of an admitted adversary with a vendetta against the subject in question. But once again, The Fifth Estate, an unabashed demonization of the sinister state secrets whistleblowing website Wikileaks and its head hacker extraordinaire Julian Assange, is all about what Hollywood does best – the one side to every story school of moviemaking. Or is it?

Perhaps the title itself, The Fifth Estate, is a kind of coded giveaway. And intimating in this case that there may actually be, for a change in Hollywood, two sides to the story. One being the envious Assange wannabe Daniel Domscheit-Berg, played by Daniel Bruhl, whose get-even book ‘Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website’ – written after his falling out with Assange – is the basis of much of the material in this film. Sorry Daniel, you may have convinced Hollywood to cough up big bucks for your useful alleged tell-all, you’re still no Julian Assange.

But the other, more covert entity calling the shots here is the studio itself, spreading this cinematic smear campaign against Assange – Disney Pictures. In no way a coincidence, Disney is a vast web conglomerate with Internet holdings of its own that include Disney Mobile and And that may in fact be targeted by Wikileaks in the current scandal involving NSA spying.

Not to mention Disney as one of the largest media conglomerates itself in the world – and the owner of that increasingly Wikileaks upstaged fourth estate corporation deeply embedded with US political and economic interests that are too often their own as well. And an implicit David and Goliath losing competitor of underground counter-surveillance by principled alternative media like Wikileaks – their corporate broadcasting that has grown to be one of the largest – and now threatened – media empires, ABC News.

All of which adds up to a combo discrediting of the corporate media along with this movie, rather than its rather fictitious protagonist Assange that it seeks to malign. That is, if viewers are discerning enough to look beyond the seductively stylized sexed up secrets in this story, and the self-serving filtered facts at hand.

One need only consider the players behind this production to weigh in on credentials and credibility: Twilight Saga director Bill Condon, The Hobbit’s Necromancer, Benedict Cumberbatch. And Domscheit-Berg himself, paid big bucks for peddling his tacky tabloid scandal screed to Hollywood.

So what is there left to say about a movie bent on making Assange look more evil than the US military? Or Wikileaks being a bad thing because it exposes US secrets about intended coups and invasions around the world, because the assassins on the US payroll are outed?

Or how about the release of The Fifth Estate curiously timed with Wikileaks troubling shocker revelations of mass NSA domestic and international spying for political and economic gain? So the bottom line would seem to be – The Fifth Estate: Wikileaks investigator or media competitor?

So what we seem to be left with in terms of scrutinized spin, is a focus in the film on this political fugitive fleeing the US empire’s tentacles, and thus, infrequent bather Assange’s smelly socks, as more lethal than US military murders around the world.

That, along with Hollywood’s repeated inability to actually ‘get’ what rebel activism or related convictions are all about. Processing instead such motivations – and here applied incessantly and weirdly to Assange – sifted through their exceedingly limited narrow personal prism. With the driving force being either ambition, fame, power, riches, vanity, ego, greed, or all of the above.

“The Fifth Estate refers to a class of people in society other than the clergy (first estate), nobility (second estate), the commoners (third estate) and the press (fourth estate). The term is used to describe the poor and the civil society. It may also refer to media outlets such as bloggers, who are not the mainstream media outlets.” Indeed.

To see the trailer of The Fifth State:

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.