April 27, 2015

Phones, laptops, airports

Fifth Estate (Bill Condon, 2013). A new media landscape of mobile phones and laptops, anonymous airports and noisy newsrooms. The mostly unloved WikiLeaks film never quite works out which WikiLeaks story it should tell, so writer Josh Singer (The West Wing) creates an ungainly blend of a Julian Assange/Daniel Berg buddy film, an abbreviated account of how some big newspapers scored a big story, a clumsy meditation on information and how it flows and a Homeland-ish thriller about State Department sources who may (or may not) be in danger. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Assange is an awkward, messianic, driven, antisocial figure, which means that Cumberbatch has probably nailed him – his Australian accent is unwaveringly bang-on, too – and I enjoyed David Thewlis’ portrayal of the Guardian’s Nick Davies as the archetypal bolshy, wry, sarcastic, no-bullshit journo. But the film makes the fatal mistake of assuming that everyone else is as concerned as Berg (played by Daniel Bruhl) was with questions about whether he or Assange was the true moral centre of WikiLeaks – on this evidence, it doesn’t appear that Assange was really too bothered, either. There is a lot of duelling laptops. How long ago it all seems.