There's a lot going on in The Fifth Estate: a whirlwind of classified documents from corporations and countries flying through the Ethernet. State Department officials running around pulling their hair out. Techies clacking frantically on laptops. Old-school investigative journalists bumping up against a new breed of information disseminators. Encrypted coding and instant messages whooshing across the screen. There is video of U.S. gunships mowing down unarmed reporters and Iraqi civilians. And the dreamlike vision of rows upon rows of steel desks planted on a vast surreal landscape of sand.
And at one point in this antsy, would-be cyber-thriller, Julian Assange - well, Benedict Cumberbatch, channeling the WikiLeaks founder with extraordinary precision - is captured doing an awkward disco boogie in a Reykjavik nightclub. This may be the most damning moment of his controversial career.
Adapted from two tell-alls about Assange and his revolutionary whistle-blowing dot-org (Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, and WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy by David Leigh and Luke Harding), The Fifth Estate chronicles the white-haired Australian's ascent from teenage hacker to "mad prophet" espousing transparency and truth and holding court at international conferences.
With the release in 2010 of U.S. military gunsight footage taken years earlier in Baghdad, and of thousands of U.S. diplomatic communiques - simultaneously published in the Guardian, the New York Times, and Der Spiegel - WikiLeaks' profile exploded. Assange and his little website were very big news.