Fifth Estate – fact, fiction, or faction, and does it matter anyway?

Editor’s Notes: The Fifth Estate is now playing.

If you followed the whole wiki-leaks saga (and who didn’t?) then you really have to go and see Fifth Estate whether you’re going to like it or not. But you probably are going to like it either way – if you were at all interested in the original subject matter. Because that’s the way it always is with movies telling stories from recent history – albeit a fictionalised account. You feel you have to go and catch it to ensure you’re getting the same take on recent events as everyone else.

In other words, the movie becomes bigger than the event itself.


In this way, Fifth Estate may be a little cynical – but this is the movie business after all. So it’s vital to remember that this is fictional - and only supposed to be a partial truth. In this regard, it’s similar in principle to the Facebook movie version Social Network; you kind of know that although there’s a lot of factual information in there – it also didn’t happen with anything like the same level of drama or, in some cases, actual circumstance! This is ‘faction’ after all – but how much is fact and how much is fiction becomes distinctly blurred to say the least. And herein lies the problem; the downside is that millions, of people all around the world tend to see the movie and nothing else – and it kind of becomes fact, after the fact as it were.

To many of us, this is simply unacceptable – but does it really matter?

Well … yes it does – because it’s in this way that history gradually becomes distorted and the millions tend to prefer the glamorous and simplified versions of events to the historical realities. And these are the people who really should know the truth. Because if they don’t, then war becomes glamorous, violence can become acceptable, and morals get distinctly confused. If you don’t believe me – then ask John Wayne.

All that said, Fifth Estate promises to be fascinating movie as the trailer depicts. There are many memorable sound-bites like: “Then that man could topple the most powerful - and the most repressive of regimes” or “… he’s not a journalist, he’s a threat to national security…” some of which are delivered breathless in style which seems distinctly at odds with the rather more mundane news events – most of which are so fresh in our collective memories.

Anyway, Benedict Cumberbatch looks like he does a great job as Julian Assange notwithstanding the sometimes dodgy Aussie accent - and the factual side of things, at least, does look fascinating. But you can surely wait for it to hit the smaller a screen then watch it alongside other faction with a double play deal – benefitting from the economies of scale and simplicity such bundled TV, Internet and phone deals offer? This seems to be the wisest course of action when so many movies like this one promise so much yet deliver so little in practice – and after you’ve paid for the coke and popcorn, one night at the movies comes out around a month’s bundle sub; not worth it in our view.

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