The Fifth Estate (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 13, 2014 by  


“The Fifth Estate” is fascinating, but I suppose the story behind WikiLeaks and the dysfunction within was more fascinating rather than exciting.  A solid performance by Benedict Cumberbatch and for anyone fascinated about what transpired during those controversial years involving, “The Fifth Estate”, despite it being a one-sided story, is worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Dreamworks II Distribution Co. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Fifth Estate


DURATION: 128 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 Aspect Ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Tracks, Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: DreamWorks Pictures

RATED: R (For Language and Some Violence)

Release Date: January 28, 2014

Directed by Bill Condon

Based on the book “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

Adaptation by Josh Singer

Produced by Steve Golin, Michael Sugar

Co-Producer as Hilde De Laere, Jack Morrissey, Emmeline Yang, Greg Yolen

Line Producer: Leifur B. Dafinnson

Music by Carter Burwell

Cinematography by Tobias A. Schliessler

Edited by Virginia Katz

Casting by Lucy Bevan

Production Design by Mark Tildesley

Art Direction by Denis Schnegg

Set Decoration by Lieven Baes, Veronique Melery, Ilse Willocx

Costume Design by Shay Cunliffe


Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange

Daniel Bruhl as Daniel Berg

Stanley Tucci as James Boswell

Laura Linney as Sarah Shaw

Anthony Mackie as Sam Coulson

Carice van Houten as Birgitta Jonsdottire

Michael Culkin as Ralph Zilke

Peter Capaldi as Alan Rusbridger

David Thewlis as Nick Davies

Anatole Taubman as Holger Stark

Alexander Beyer as Marcel Rosenbach

Dan Stevens as Ian Katz

Jamie Blackley as Ziggy

Ludger Pistor as Supervisor

Alicia Vikander as Anke Domscheit

Michael Kranz as Otto

Alexander Siddig as Dr. Tarek Haliseh

Lydia Leonard as Alex Lang

Benedict Cumberbatch gives a brilliant performance as Julian Assange, the narcissistic, polarizing founder of WikiLeaks, in The Fifth Estate. This dramatic thriller, based on true events, reveals the Internet upstart’s quest to expose the deception and corruptions of power – turning them into the 21st century’s most fiercely debated organization. After Assange and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) team up to shine a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes, they find themselves battling each other over whether the cost of exposing the truth to the public is too high. Riveting, smart and thought provoking, The Fifth Estate poses the ultimate question: “Hero or traitor?”

From filmmaker Bill Condon (“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2”, “Dreamgirls”, “Kinsey”) comes a film adaptation of the life of Julian Assange titled “The Fifth Estate”.

Assange, the creator of WikiLeaks, an organization that preached better government through transparency is the key figure of the film which is based on the books “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.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg is supposedly the other half of WikiLeaks that was part of the group during its beginning, which WikiLeaks felt Domscheit-Berg was overstating his role in the group and have been vocal against him.

While “The Fifth Estate” is no doubt a perspective that leans more towards the life of Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the film was described by Julian Assange as a “massive propaganda attack”, the actor portraying Julian Assange and supporter of WikiLeaks, Benedict Cumberbatch (“Star Trek Into Darkness”, “War Horse”, “Atonement”, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”) did communicate with each other during the filming of the movie and Assange wrote to Cumberbatch to reconsider his involvement in the film.

The film would also star Daniel Bruhl (“Inglourious Basterds”, “Good Bye Lenin!”, “The Bourne Ultimatum”), Laura Linney (“The Truman Show”, “Mystic River”, “Primal Fear”), Carice van Houten (“Black Book”, “Valkyrie”, “Stricken”), Anthony Mackie (“The Hurt Locker”, “Million Dollar Baby”, “Real Steel”), Peter Capaldi (“Doctor Who”, “World War Z”, “Dangerous Liaisons”) and Stanley Tucci (“The Hunger Games”, “The Devil Wears Prada”, “Captain America”).

The film revolves around the relationship of WikiLeaks founder Julian Paul Assange (portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch) and German technology activist Daniel Schmitt/Daniel Domscheit-Berg (portrayed by Daniel Bruhl), the spokesperson for WikiLeaks, a whistleblower organization.

The film begins with news footage of the Afghan War documents leak, which consisted of internal U.S. military logos of the War in Afghanistan.  A database of sensitive military intelligence material which was made public on WikiLeaks.  A political concern as informants were mentioned in the leak, could put their lives at risk.   But the eyes of the world was on Julian Assange and would reveal to the world of WikiLeaks.

But as these leaks happened in 2010, the film then goes back to the past, in 2007, as journalist Daniel Domscheiter-Berg meets Australian computer hacker Julian Assange at the Chaos Computer Club event in Berlin.

Daniel respects Julian’s online activism and together, they begin working on WikiLeaks, a whistleblower website that would release information to the public but giving the people who leak information, anonymity.

Together, both men begin working on targeting the Julius Baer Group, the leading Swiss private banking group.  Both men released documents to show proof of tax evasion by clients of the banking group and how there was an attempts to prevent people from accessing WikiLeaks but because WikiLeaks mirror sites exist in different countries, it wasn’t possible.

As the WikiLeaks project was a success and social media disseminating the information all over the web, Daniel sees that many people have worked on the project and believes that Julian had a significant team, but learned that Julian managed to do it by himself using many accounts.

And as the relationship between both men strengthens, they continue to work on publishing secrets online in regards to Scientology, the members of the British National Party but as they grow, the fear of security becomes a major factor and as Daniel wanted to push for security, Julian was more intent of wanting to show that he is in control and he calls the shots.

And as these leaks would be seen as positive to various parts of the world, others see the sensitive information published as problematic and can lead to the loss of someone’s life.

And as the original goal was to protect the sources of those who supply the leaked information, Daniel begins to feel that it was all a ruse and that Daniel, just wants the information, and take the credit to build WikiLeaks without protecting the whistleblower’s identity.

And the relationship between the two would further become strained when Bradley Manning leaks hundreds of thousands of documents in regards to the Afghan Wars to WikiLeaks including a video of an airstrike in Baghdad.  Julian wants to leak all documents immediately, Daniel disagrees and believes the documents must be reviewed first.

How would this strained relationship lead Daniel to leave WikiLeaks and how did this working relationship between both men of WikiLeaks end?


“The Fifth Estate” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality for the film is very good, close ups of characters show very good detail, skin tones are natural, vibrant colors look great and good mix of cooler and warmer colors throughout the film.


“The Fifth Estate” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital.  The film also comes with a Frencha nd Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital language track.  The soundtrack is primarily dialogue and musical driven.  If anything, dialogue is crystal clear as with Carter Burwell’s musical score.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.


“The Fifth Estate” comes with the following special features:

  • The Submission Platform – (10:25) A featurette on the visual effects of “The Fifth Estate”.
  • In-Camera Graphics – (6:25) Creating the look and feel for “The Fifth Estate” with computer text overlaying on people’s faces and giving a technical, yet stylish visual look to the film.
  • Scoring Secrets – (9:11) A featurette on the scoring of the film by Carter Burwell.
  • Trailers and TV Spots – (6:39) Featuring a variety of trailers for “The Fifth Estate”.


“The Fifth Estate” comes with the Blu-ray, DVD and code for the digital copy of the film.

“The Fifth Estate” is a fascinating film that gives us a look of how things were behind-the-scenes of WikiLeaks and the working relationship between founder Julian Assange and spokespeson Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

Two men who wanted to make a difference by releasing sensitive and classified information that was never meant for the public but also its primary goal for whistleblowers to share information of corruption of a government or business through the website and your identity being kept secret.

And as WikiLeaks grew and gained high-level information, the goal of releasing information versus protecting the identities of the whistleblowers is the focus of “The Fifth Estate”.  How two men were on the same page, who helped build WikiLeaks but somehow, would end up with a strained relationship and both went their separate ways.

While the aspect of the danger of releasing information is rather fascinating and how the two accomplished what they did early on, there is no doubt a nagging feeling that this is film represents one side of the story and as Julian Assange has criticized the film, because it was an adaptation partly on Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s book, we have to believe that his role was to watch over Assange and make sure the ego and the power doesn’t get to his head, even if that means having to go against him.

The film also paints Assange as a person with a traumatic childhood which has made him to what the person is today.

So, the film shows us how Assange is literally a narcissist who has one view and that is of his own and as for Berg, a person who wanted to do the right thing, keep watch over Assange and be the person to let him know when he was going too far.

Meanwhile, thrown in to the mix are journalists (of the Fourth Estate) wanting to work with the Fifth Estate (via WikiLeaks) to make sure that they do the right thing, while the U.S. government is shown, trying to deal with WikiLeaks and trying to protect their informants.

But overall, “The Fifth Estate” is based on a one-sided perspective, although Heather Brooks, who was part of The Guardian’s WikiLeaks team wrote her own book (The Revolution Will Be Digitised) about Julian Assange and said that Daniel knew Assange better than anyone else and also mentions that the firing of Daniel was due to him being critical of Assange’s clothes and wanted him to be dressed up a bit and the insulted Assange fired him on the spot.

I suppose if this was the truth of how these two men ended their working relationship, I suppose the true fact that the two ended their relationship over clothes, wouldn’t make a very good film.

But for what it’s worth, “The Fifth Estate” was a fascinating film and gives us insight to instability of what transpired behind-the-scenes of WikiLeaks.  You’ll read a lot of people who worked with Assange who say the movie was BS or corroborate Domscheit-Berg’s story, but the movie itself was not riveting.  If anything, you wondered to yourself of what made Domscheit-Berg stay employed with Julian Assange and realized that at first, it was because he believed in WikiLeaks but most importantly, how dangerous Julian Assange could have been and that he was the only person that could counter him.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality for “The Fifth Estate” is very well-done while the soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and music.  You also get a few special features included as well.

“The Fifth Estate” is fascinating, but I suppose the story behind WikiLeaks and the dysfunction within was more fascinating rather than exciting.  Performance by Benedict Cumberbatch was very good and as for filmmaker Bill Condon and actor Daniel Bruhl, I have seen better films involving the two.  Visually, the film was very cool and of course, it was rather interesting to see the business-side of, despite the story being one-sided.

Overall, “The Fifth Estate” is not a great film but still, a fascinating film worth watching if you are familiar with Julian Assange, Daniel Domscheit-Berg and

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