Starring Benedict Cumberbatch,
Directed by Bill Condon
Rating: 3. 5 (out of 5)
It has been said that knowledge is power,
but who is responsible for it?
In this age of the Internet we have access
to information unlike ever before. At any
moment we can find out almost all that
has been written on almost any topic we
choose. We can access family records,
shop, bank, or video chat with someone
halfway around the world. The modern
age has been about celebrating our ability to connect as we enjoy a constant influx of new information.
However, these capabilities come with
their own set of problems. Governments
peer into personal email accounts in the
name of national security, often violating
the trust of the people it is trying to protect. These practices remind us that we
live in a world where ‘right’ and ‘wrong’
are subject to a delicate balance. We
want access to information but we also
expect a certain amount of privacy. What
we sometimes fail to realize is that when
protection and privacy are at odds, simple ideas about right and wrong become
This moral ambiguity lies at the heart of
The Fifth Estate.
The Fifth Estate tells the story of Julian
Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and
the rise of his infamous website, WikiLe-
aks. Seeking justice for the oppressed,
Assange and his partner Daniel Dom-
scheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) play the role of
freedom fighters that use their website
to release secure documents that reveal
corruption within corporations and gov-
ernment. The tiny organization begins
to grow as more people join their cause
and greater numbers high-ranking au-
thorities are called to account for their
By focusing on the development of
WikiLeaks rather than Assange himself,
The Fifth Estate calls into question the
true nature of justice in the Internet age.
The technology has shrunk the world
around us and provided a means to call
for justice in places where it has been absent. Not only did Assange give ordinary
citizens that opportunity but he gave
them the chance to do it under the veil
of anonymity. “Give a man a mask and he
will tell you the truth,” Assange proclaims.
However, these principles of free speech
and anonymity also raise question about
the boundaries of justice. For example,
can an action be ‘good’ if it places the
lives of others at risk? Isn’t that level of
honesty sometimes reckless?
Films like The Fifth Estate are humbling
because they also reveal our own sin. It
is usually far easier to point out the ac-
tions of another – be it governments
or our neighbours – than it is for us to
acknowledge our own brokenness. As
Christians who desire to see God’s King-
dom enacted in our world, we too must
be conscious of our own hearts and
practices so that we do not inadvertently
work against these principles. Like As-
sange, we have been called by Christ to
cry out for justice in a world of suffering
and cruelty. But we must not neglect the
damage we ourselves are responsible for.
Although he argues passionately for ac-
countability for others, Cumberbatch’s
Assange remains distant from those clos-
est to him, revealing little about his own
history and secrets.
Cumberbatch’s Assange is portrayed as
both hero and villain – one who reveals
truth but endangers others in the process. And despite the shades of grey surrounding the rightness or wrongness of
his actions, one cannot help but empathize with his bold spirit, demanding corporate and government accountability.
After all, courage is contagious.
ESTATE WriterS t e v e N o