Happy Monday, friends, and welcome to another week of disappointments–NOOOOvember disappointments, that is. We had a great start to this series with some excellent guests last week (just see here and here), and now it’s time for yet another lovely guest rant from my buddy Tom over at Digital Shortbread. What did he choose for his letdown? Let’s find out!
‘The Fifth Estate’
First and foremost, a big thank-you goes out to Cara for reminding me why it’s so much fun to blog about movies on sites that are not your own! Her NOOOOvember blogathon is a wonderful creation as its the perfect platform to vent frustration. It’s all about talking about the titles that we were looking forward to seeing. . . .until we, well, saw the thing.
For me there could be several choices, I have been disappointed frequently in my time (don’t worry, not by you all 🙂 ). But I’ll limit my lamenting to a fairly recent release, and one towards which I still harbor considerably bitter feelings. Let’s talk about Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate for a minute, shall we?
I suppose for someone with absolutely zero knowledge of who Julian Assange is, it is possible for this slow-burning “thriller” to provide a bit of a thrill. It could be thrilling to learn this much all at once, like getting your brain reinserted into the Matrix using a tiny little plug. Unfortunately don’t expect any significant changes in physical abilities. Come the end of this movie you will have gained some important dates, a laundry list of names and what their relationships to one another are, some headache-inducing statistics involving how powerful the internet can be, and a little insight into Assange’s personal life. (Emphasis on a ‘little.’)
The main thing I was disappointed with in this film was the way it approached a most unusual and hugely controversial public figure. Rather than focusing in on something catalytic or a major milestone in the man’s life, and then presenting the character as someone being torn apart morally by these extreme situations, the film is more a Powerpoint presentation glossing over a timeline of many events — some of which you may have heard and/or read about, some you may not have. The path taken by Bill Condon results in a destination entirely predictable, safe and even dull.
Pacing lags in The Fifth Estate like a sloth recovering from the hardest night of drinking he’s ever had. Nothing is happening in a hurry here. That tosses the fuel on the disappointing fire since we patiently await, and await, and await. . .for mere blips of activity to surface on the horizon. I’m actually having difficulty recalling any good examples here, but that surely must show how forgettable an outing this was.
In fact the only thing that remains a vivid memory of it is Cumberbatch’s disturbingly bleached-white hair. He looks very Assangian. Peculiar. Tense. Appearing to be in full control of his life, but still operating under a shady enough guise to be suspected by even his closest peers. And Cumberbatch’s performance here suits the man well. Needless to say, there’s almost nothing to complain about with his portrayal.
That’s why the film achieves such a hopelessly lame status. It speaks with such importance and authority but never actually implements compelling sequences to show just why Julian Assange posed (poses?) such a threat to the security of entire communities, maybe even the entire planet. Everything here is just assumed to be bad. We don’t see the how. Maybe it’s too tall of a task to be more graphic, to be more specific here for Bill Condon et al. Again, that goes back to the simple solution of focusing on a particularly difficult point in the character’s life rather than providing an encyclopedia’s worth of convoluted conversation and paradigm-shifting information-revealing.
All in all, I was severely underwhelmed by The Fifth Estate, and try my hardest to not look back on this phase in Cumberbatch’s career. He can (and will) do better.
A bad Cumberbatch film?! Noooooo!!! Sigh. I guess it happens to every actor. Anyway, thanks so much for this, Tom! More NOOOOvember coming your way soon, friends! P.S. I know a few of you have said you still want to get me something, and you’re welcome to, but I reeeeeally need those write-ups this week, if at all possible. Pretty please and thank you. 🙂