The Fifth Estate


The Fifth Estate

Critics Consensus

Heavy on detail and melodrama but missing the spark from its remarkable real-life inspiration, The Fifth Estate mostly serves as a middling showcase for Benedict Cumberbatch's remarkable talent.



Total Count: 177


Audience Score

User Ratings: 18,744
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Movie Info

Triggering our age of high-stakes secrecy, explosive news leaks and the trafficking of classified information, WikiLeaks forever changed the game. Now, in a dramatic thriller based on real events, "The Fifth Estate" reveals the quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned an Internet upstart into the 21st century's most fiercely debated organization. The story begins as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) team up to become underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful. On a shoestring, they create a platform that allows whistleblowers to anonymously leak covert data, shining a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes. Soon, they are breaking more hard news than the world's most legendary media organizations combined. But when Assange and Berg gain access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in U.S. history, they battle each other and a defining question of our time: what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society-and what are the costs of exposing them?"(c) Disney


Benedict Cumberbatch
as Julian Assange
Carice van Houten
as Birgitta Jónsdóttir
Daniel Brühl
as Daniel Domscheit-Berg
Laura Linney
as Sarah Shaw
Anthony Mackie
as Sam Coulson
David Thewlis
as Nick Davies
Peter Capaldi
as Alan Rusbridger
Alicia Vikander
as Anka Domscheit-Berg
Stanley Tucci
as James Boswell
Anatole Taubman
as Holger Stark
Alexander Beyer
as Marcel Rosenbach
Philip Bretherton
as Bill Keller
Ludger Pistor
as Supervisor
Christin Nichols
as Otto's Girlfriend
Christoph Franken
as Game Console Hacker
Ben Rook
as Young Julian
Lucinda Raikes
as Julian's Mother
Marleen Lohse
as Tacheles Waitress
Silvie Rorer
as Zilke's Assistant
Silvie Rohrer
as Zilke's Assistant
Michael Culkin
as Ralph Zilke
Joseph Kintua Muriuki
as John Paul Oulu
Peter King Nzioki
as Oscar Kamau Kingara
Lukas Piloty
as German Reporter
Thomas Ancora
as French Reporter
Phil Haiser
as Rental Agent
Phil Kaiser
as Rental Agent
Jeany Spark
as Wired Reporter
John Schwab
as White House Staffer
Lisa Kreuzer
as East Berlin Woman
Philipp Langenegger
as Der Spiegel Reporter
Cornelia Ivancan
as WikiLeaks Fan #1
Martin Glade
as WikiLeaks Fan #2
Franziska Walser
as Daniel's Mother
Edgar Selge
as Daniel's Father
Alexander Siddig
as Dr. Tarek Haliseh
Michael Jibson
as Irritated Reporter
Lydia Leonard
as Alex Lang
Darren Evans
as Private Manning
Kyle Soller
as Young Staffer
Nigel Whitmey
as General Thomason
Sonya Cassidy
as Alan's Secretary
Chris McKinney
as Times Reporter
John Moraitis
as Bearded Times Reporter
Christian Contreras
as Times War Correspondent
Camilla Rutherford
as Guardian Lawyer
Milena Karas
as Der Spiegel Reporter #1
Birger Frehse
as Der Spiegel Reporter #2
Eben Young
as Diplomat #1
Avye Leventis
as Diplomat #2
Rachel Handshaw
as State Department Staffer #1
Guy Paul
as State Department Staffer #2
Simon Connolly
as State Department Staffer #3
Amir Boutrous
as Mutassim Al-Gaddafi
Mimi Ferrer
as Shida Haliseh
Wilfred Maina
as Man on Phone
Mounir Margoum
as Border Guard
Gudmundur Thorvaldsson
as WikiLeaks Staffer #1
Hera Hilmar
as Wikileaks Staffer #2
CinSyla Key
as Airplane Passenger
David Akinloye
as Airline Passenger
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News & Interviews for The Fifth Estate

Critic Reviews for The Fifth Estate

All Critics (177) | Top Critics (47) | Fresh (64) | Rotten (113)

  • As nervy and as excitable as the trade that it depicts.

    Oct 21, 2013 | Full Review…
  • The material covered in the production's 128 minutes is not only inherently non-cinematic but not remotely "thrilling," at least in the conventional sense.

    Oct 21, 2013 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • The Fifth Estate is also as current as a news feed, filling in the disputed facts about Assange's life beyond the headlines and chronicling the revolution that has upended the media landscape in the last decade.

    Oct 18, 2013 | Rating: 4/5
  • Director Bill Condon delivers an intelligent, dynamic, character-centered drama.

    Oct 18, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4
  • Condon and his screenwriter Josh Singer don't quite know what to make of this duo, perhaps because the men didn't quite know what to make of each other, either.

    Oct 18, 2013 | Rating: C | Full Review…
  • "The Fifth Estate" feels unfortunately small and safe.

    Oct 18, 2013 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Fifth Estate

  • Feb 03, 2014
    Before this I really didn't know a lot about Wikileaks. I remember it being in the news, but honestly I didn't really care. This is the story(or at least Hollywood's version) of how it got started and essentially changed the way information is leaked to the masses. More than anything it's a portrait of Julian Assange(Benedict Cumberbatch) and how he is arrogant and pretty much an ass. More importantly the movie falls flat. It drags a lot and it's too jumbled up to be effective at anything it sets out to do. Cumberbatch is OK, but I've seen him in much better movies than this. Same with Daniel Bruhl, who was amazing in "Rush". It wants to be a techno thriller like "The Net", but ends up somewhere in the middle. I especially didn't care for the ending. The way it ends is just kind of like well that was stupid. SPOILER! it's a little interview with Cumberbatch as Assange talking about a wikileaks movie(kind of), and it is just ridiculous. No one narrates the movie so it's not like a "this is my story", which honestly would have been better. But, I will say this, the movie does make me want to learn more about Wikileaks, so in that regard it is a success. I know there is a documentary out called "Wikileaks, we steal secrets", and after seeing this, I don't think I'm gonna put that off much longer. Anyway, I've seen much better and I'm not sure who this would be best suited for. You may like it, or you may hate it. Either way, let me know what you think about it. I thought(and hoped) for a better movie, but they can't all be winners now can they?
    Everett J Super Reviewer
  • Jan 31, 2014
    After watching "The Fifth Estate", I'm a little bit confused as to what the film is trying to accomplish. It apparently sets out to reveal secrets and expose deceptions, but there really is nothing new here. Just some tid-bits about Assange allegedly being a weirdo and behaving very self-important. But then, the debate between Daniel and the Guardian guy as well as the 'interview' Assange gives to the audience by the end of the film seem to contradict everything that the movie was going for. I suppose that the film may/will provoke debate but I think that if a film about Assange was being released I would like something with more depth to it. There were several sub-plots that seemed unnecessary; like the girlfriend one and the one with actors Linney, Mackie, and Tucci about their supposed Lybian-informant Tarek who's life might be in peril because of the leaks. Tarek appropriate calls Linney's character after they've escaped Lybia and no answer is given as to what they should do next. Real fascinating story right there. Despite its misgivings, I still enjoyed most of the film.
    Wildaly M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 29, 2014
    Oh yeah, this sounds like quite the nail-biter of a thriller, being that it's about some popular little news show, and a Canadian one at that. No, people, this film has to be more exciting than that, because, after all, it's about some serious conspiracies... simply being talked about on some news-leaking website... and runs well over two hours. Man, come to think of it, the Canadian show "The Fifth Estate" is pretty well-known for its investigative journalism work, so you might be able to get some momentum out of that after all, as opposed to this film, which would be really hard to take seriously once it got to the scene in which everyone keeps giggling a little bit at the idea of naming this major whistleblower website WikiLeaks. Oh, that's so cute, but I don't want my news to be cute, Diane Sawyer, although WikiLeaks, while adorably named, makes me a little too scared, especially when I see that the head of this investigative journalism organization is headed by Sherlock Holmes. Man, Benedict Cumberbatch is getting some work lately, but I wouldn't say that he's being type-cast as a master investigator, because where Sherlock Holmes is British, Cumberbatch is tossing on some sexy silver hair to play Julian Assange, an Aussie. Man, I've always been a little suspicious that the Australians were up to something, sitting on their little continent, seemingly harmless, and now, sure enough, they've got all the dirt, or at least Assange does. I'm telling you, folks, that silver hair is just too cool to say no to, unless, of course, you're those Swedish women... allegedly (Interesting how Assange also has his own scandals), but the film itself, while decent, is hardly cool enough for you to get over the blows to whatever thrills you can get out of a film about the foundation of a website that just reports on dark secrets. I suppose gradual development to this somewhat intimate and certainly lengthy character study is there, but immediate development is rather lacking, for although we don't need to know a whole lot about the leads right way, your sudden thrust into the narrative ought to leave your investment to go loosened, no matter how much the final product tries to compensate for limited early exposition by bloating things. Now, the film isn't quite as bloated as you might fear it would be, as this subject matter has enough layers to sustain a hefty length, yet not a length this hefty, and all too often achieved through draggy, repetitious material that feels all the more limp behind a certain coldness to Bill Condon's directorial atmosphere. When Condon's somewhat meditative storytelling runs out of material to draw on, it falls into blandness, if not dullness, and make no mistake, there are plenty of lapses in material's bite, due to dragging, and even familiarity. Not just conventional, but generic, this film's style, while sharp, is even plagued with a near-cheaply uncreative flare that cannot compensate for trope-heavy plotting, which, when backed up by the uneven pacing, reflects a laziness to storytelling that is contradicted by ambitiously overblown elements. While generally reasonably chilling, Condon's direction has its share of moments of atmospheric over-emphasis which water down the genuineness of the thoughtfulness, maybe not to where the film ever beats you over the head with subtlety issues, but decidedly to where the film feels more ambitious than truly realized. Conviction feels limited here, at least more so than it should be, as there is so much potential here, yet it ultimately goes cut short by the sharp blade of uneven pacing, familiarity and subtlety hiccups that render the final product kind of forgettable. The film stands to hit harder, but I won't say that it swings as far off from its mark as many are saying, as there is an ultimately adequate deal of inspiration, at least in style. As I said, even this film's ultimately prominent style is formulaic, yet it's nevertheless commendable, with some nifty snap and post-production novelties to Virginia Katz's editing that capture a degree of this cyber thriller's thematic flavor, if not a degree of entertainment value. Style has a certain liveliness about it that keeps things going to some extent or another, though not without the guidance of director Bill Condon, who, through all of his missteps and overambitious bloatings, carries thoughtful, if not smoothly intense plays on score work, in addition to style, in order to establish a near-biting atmosphere that sometimes all-out grips. The atmosphere is often cold in its overambitious stylization and thoughtfulness, yet storytelling still has a certain value to it that soaks up the value of worthy subject matter. Well, I suppose some natural thinness is there to this relatively minimalist techno-thriller, but it's not nearly what makes the final product underwhelming, as the story interpretation most undercuts things, while the story concept itself meditates upon the sharp technical and humanly flawed minds behind an important, if questionable whistleblower project pretty interestingly, and it sometimes truly brought to life by effectively meditative storytelling. As I've been saying time and again, the aimless, if not overblown elements to storytelling distance about as much, if not more than it engages, ultimately holding potential back, but still carrying with it a fair inspiration that intrigues, particularly when anchored by more the much more consistent onscreen talents. That especially goes for the leads, with Daniel Brühl being characterized by a very human charisma which captures the depths of an ambitious whose slips into dangerous waters when trying to help the world out of danger, while the show-stealing Benedict Cumberbatch proves to be even more charismatic, as well as often atmospherically effective in his slick, somewhat mysterious portrayal of a well-intentioned, but questionable intellectual whose missteps will come back to haunt him and his colleagues, if not others. Brühl and Cumberbatch hit individually, and when they bond through key chemistry, they really sell the dynamic, rocky professional and personal relationship between Daniel Domscheit-Berg and Julian Assage that powered WikiLeaks and, of course, powers this narrative, whose interpretation is ultimately not as sharp as it should have been, yet inspired enough to make a decent pseudo-filler thriller, in spite of all of the shortcomings. When the leak has been bled dry, uneven pacing which thins exposition and blandly drags out other elements, coupled with genericisms and some overblown storytelling points behind a sense of overambition, leave the final product to crust over as underwhelming, but not so underwhelming that sharp style and directorial highlights, as well as strong performances and chemistry between Daniel Brühl and Benedict Cumberbatch behind an intriguing story concept don't prove to be enough to make Bill Condon's "The Fifth Estate" an adequately and sometimes grippingly engaging, if ultimately overblown and underwhelming thriller. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jan 25, 2014
    You can't expose the world's secrets without exposing yourself. Good Film! The film was not bad. It was sort of an attempt to make a Facebook style film about Wikileaks and although it nowhere measured up to the quality of "Social Network." My conclusion is, that, this film is a good example of the new way of being critical. Pretend to be fair and at the last minute, throw up a bunch of negative facts. I believe that combining the positive portrayal of the U.S. state department with the crazy portrayal of Assange, was neither fair nor accurate. History will probably judge this film as just another propaganda piece of the corrupt powers that be. If I were to write this film, I think it would have been much more interesting to concentrate on the incidents of human rights abuses rather than on the Assange himself. It would have also had the positive effect of encouraging, rather than discouraging whistle-blowers. This film does not seem to inspire anything. The story begins as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) team up to become underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful. On a shoestring, they create a platform that allows whistle-blowers to anonymously leak covert data, shining a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes. Soon, they are breaking more hard news than the world's most legendary media organizations combined. But when Assange and Berg gain access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in U.S. history, they battle each other and a defining question of our time: what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society-and what are the costs of exposing them?
    Manu G Super Reviewer

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