The Fifth Estate: Losing Sight Of The Mission (Movie Review)

A mysterious figure on a mission. Significant intrigue and danger. Globetrotting sets.

Are we looking at the fourth Bourne movie?

No, it’s the intriguing Wikileaks-based movie by Bill Condon (Gods and MonstersChicago, last two Twilight movies), starring Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch (The HobbitStar Trek Into Darkness12 Years A Slave) as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. We see him primarily through the eyes of his first “disciple,” Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl, Rush), a reporter who seeks out Assange early on in the Wikileaks days out of admiration for his truth-telling work.

The film is different in that there are flashbacks, “fantasy” scenes, and straightforward action, interspersed with real-life news clips, interviews, and computer-generated interludes announcing time and place. When Cumberbatch is present, the camera is absolutely focused on his portrayal of Assange as an informational genius, albeit a mad one. Without Cumberbatch, we’re left on Bruhl, who plays Berg as the straight man and our narrative conscience (should we be doing this?) but it’s like watching The Great Gatsby without Gatsby. We’re intrigued by Assange’s quest, but how we feel about him… that’s confusing.

I’m not a real news-watcher or politico, and honestly, I probably wouldn’t have seen this if it hadn’t been for Cumberbatch, whose work I love in Sherlock. The story is intriguing though: what right does the public have to private information, held by corporations or governments? We’re in The East territory with internet “terrorists” here, but when the information isn’t just releasing innocents from hurt, but puts embedded government agents in danger, do the rules change?

Assange (as portrayed here) sees himself as a sort of informational Robin Hood, stealing from the powerful to enlighten the public/the poor of knowledge. But somewhere along the way, we see him lose sight of the mission. Is it the thrill of power or responsibility of the position? Is it the burden of genius? Is it the spiraling out of control of a life weighed down by a messed up childhood? What, in the end, has this cost Assange, or Berg?

While I didn’t find the movie particularly moving, and certainly don’t need to re-watch it, I was asked to question whether have lost sight of the mission? Do I know why I do what I do? Does my church? Or have I become so caught up in doing what I’m doing that I’ve forgotten why I do it? Phil Vischer says that he lost sight of being with God while he was working for God (Veggietales). He’d lost sight of the mission’s purpose in the midst of the mission.

The Fifth Estate challenges us to not make the same mistakes Assange does: to not lose sight of the people in the midst of the mission, to not forget what really matters, to not lose ourselves in our work. If we’re going to remain true to the mission, we must remain true to ourselves first.

For another great look at the film, check out Steve Norton’s take here

Advertisements

About Jacob Sahms

I'm searching for hope in the midst of the storms, raising a family, pastoring a church, writing on faith and film, rooting for the Red Sox, and sleeping occasionally. Find me at ChristianCinema.com, Cinapse.co, and the brand new ScreenFish.net.
This entry was posted in Current Events, Movie Reviews, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s