The Mumbai Film Festival will close on October 24 with Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate, a dramatic thriller about WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange. As already stated in these columns, the festival’s 15th edition will kick off on October 17 with Lee Daniels’ The Butler, which traces the amazing life of a southerner who served as many as seven American presidents and witnessed some of the most arresting moments in the history of the country.
The Fifth Estate, which opened the recent Toronto Film Festival, is a biopic of Assange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch).
Based on two books, including one by Daniel Domscheit-Berg (whose character in the movie has been portrayed by Daniel Bruhl), the film takes us through the twists and turns in Assange’s life, who emerges as a feared and much hated leader of WikiLeaks, a website that aims at exposing corruption in the government and the corporate world.
Condon, who has lately been acknowledged as a bankable director (Dreamgirls and Twilight movies), tries to balance The Fifth Estate with suspense and characterisation and between the friendship and hostility of Assange and Domscheit-Berg.
The film also slips into a subplot chronicling Domscheit-Berg’s romance with his girlfriend, essayed by Alicia Vikander. Interestingly, she is not just a doll but becomes some sort of a conscience keeper when Assange starts to get reckless with his leaks.
As The Fifth Estate runs through some of the most memorable moments (including America’s war in Afghanistan), with Assange daring the powers that be, the movie begins to breathe fire and look visually stunning. In a way, The Fifth Estate could be today’s All the President’s Men.
If at all Condon’s work stumbles, it is when he skirts the moral questions, even dilemma, that Assange’s mission brought to the fore.