Movie Review: “The Fifth Estate”

Starring
Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Brühl, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci
Director
Bill Condon

One would think that the group that turned modern-day journalism on its ear would have a much more interesting story to tell, or at least a more original story, than the one that drives “The Fifth Estate.” As it is, we have the age-old morality play about the man who sets out to bring justice to the oppressed but is ultimately undone by his own ego, played out by people on laptops. (Hollywood has tried again and again to make hacking look sexy. It’s not.) This is not to say that “The Fifth Estate” is dull, because it’s teeming with interesting bits and the possibilities for more. The problem is the execution, both from a story structure standpoint and a directorial standpoint. You will be hard pressed to find a movie this year as overly directed as this one.

IT guru Daniel Berg (Daniel Brühl) meets Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) at a tech conference. Assange has created a site that guarantees anonymity for whistle blowers with the intent of bringing large-scale wrongdoers to justice, and he recruits Daniel to help him get the message out. Their site WikiLeaks quickly finds an audience, but Assange grows resentful of Berg getting an ounce of credit for the site’s success, while Berg’s girlfriend grows resentful of her widow status as Assange calls on Berg at all hours of the day and night. Things come to a head when Assange plans on releasing a bunch of top secret US government files without redacting the names of informants in the field. Assange views redaction as bias. Berg views it as responsible journalism.

One question repeatedly sprang to mind while watching this movie: where did the money come from? We see multiple shots of Assange and Berg globetrotting for what seems like years before the subject of donations to WikiLeaks is even mentioned, meanwhile neither has a day job and Assange and Berg talk of how strapped for cash they are to increase their server space once they realize that demand is greater than their bandwidth can supply. If they’re both so broke, how were they able to travel the world seemingly at will?

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Movie Review: “Rush”

Starring
Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, Alexanda Maria Lara
Director
Ron Howard

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Ron Howard and Peter Morgan love history. One look at their collective filmographies reveals several projects based on true stories and real-life figures. The latter, in particular, is responsible for writing some of the best historical dramas of the past decade, but sadly, “Rush” is not one of them. Though there’s a lot to like about Howard and Morgan’s latest movie – particularly the chemistry and performances of its two leading men – it’s not nearly as thrilling or fascinating as their last collaboration (“Frost/Nixon”). “Rush” teeters on the edge of being a really good film, but despite some fantastic source material, it never fully seizes the opportunity.

Based on the true story of the 1976 Formula One season and the heated rivalry between British playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and reigning World Champion Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), the film begins many years earlier, when the two first meet during a Formula Three race. At the time, both Hunt and Lauda were up-and-coming drivers looking to seize their chance in the big leagues. When Lauda takes out a loan and buys his way onto a team, eventually joining Ferrari after showcasing his talent behind the wheel and in the garage, Hunt is desperate to follow suit. But despite the backing of a wealthy benefactor, Hunt’s F1 car simply doesn’t compare to Lauda’s first-rate Ferrari, and the cold and calculated Austrian ends up winning the ’75 championship. One year later, Hunt is offered the chance to drive for McLaren, and with the odds now evened, the two men pick up where they left off on the race track, resulting in one of the most unforgettable seasons in F1 racing history.

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