The Fifth Estate (2013) Blu-ray Review: When Tension Becomes Tedious

(aka 'The Anti-Social Network'.)
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In 1963, legendary cult filmmaker Roger Corman - determined to live up to his reputation as a parsimonious producer - decided to recycle a number of leftover props, crew, actors and costumes left behind from previous productions (both his as well as those of others) in order to get the most out of sets built for The Raven before the scenery was torn down and destroyed completely. Sadly for film historians and enthusiasts alike, the resulting film - The Terror - was a lot of substance stuffed into a great big boring messy heap of a flick; one co-star Jack Nicholson once alleged being the only project he had ever worked on that bore no plot whatsoever.

Fifty years later, Bill Condon - the man who brought us such treasures as Strange Behavior and Gods and Monsters, but who also helmed such travesties as Dreamgirls as well as both parts of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - teamed up with Fringe writer Josh Singer in order to create what they surely had hoped would be a phenomenally sensational moving picture about of the techy cyberworld grooviness of the WikiLeaks website and the man behind it, Julian Assange. Alas, neither Condon or Singer ever bothered to view The Terror - and were doomed to repeat its fatal mistake of creating a film containing absolutely no actual content whatsoever.

No doubt taking a cue from the success of The Social Network three years before, Condon and Singer - backed by omnipresent overlords at Disney - felt a similarly-paced thriller about WikiLeaks would be the "hip" thing to do. However, owing to a really bad sense of timing (they might have been able to pull this off in 2011, when the two non-fiction books it is loosely based on were not only first published, but semi-popular) and an ever worse sense of importance over something the whole world has apparently already forgotten about completely (Bradley Manning who?), 2013's The Fifth Estate instead became a giant flop of the year. And rightfully so, I might add.

Here, Benedict Cumberbatch (sporting greasy long blonde hair) - in his one-kazillionth starring role in 2013 alone - portrays the aforementioned Assange as a skuzzy loafer hacker fellow whose bi-polar personality and social skills are as questionable as his sexuality, particularly as he croons and woos an eager German journalist (Daniel Brühl) to be a courageous WikiLeaker guy. Determined to expose corruption wherever it may prevail, these two daringly dart about the globe installing servers in farmhouses, taunting the likes of David Thewlis and Laura Linney, and attend parties even your average underage girl would find boring. But of course, "boring" is the key phrase here since - no matter what tense real-life factoid our filmmakers squeeze into this seemingly fabricated and fractured attempt at a biopic - they never manage to make their version of it seem at all interesting. Not even Stanley Tucci can make heads or tails out of his brief moments on film here. Sad, really.

The mere fact that The Fifth Estate ends with Benedict Cumberbatch - still in character - talking to the camera as if he were being interviewed and questioning the very concept of the movie you just watched only seems to confirm my suspicions that nobody really knew what was supposed to be going on with this project. The confusion continues in this Touchstone/Dreamworks Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD Copy combo set, as the three behind-the-scenes featurettes included focus instead on the film's graphics and music as opposed to its purpose. The closest thing we get to any sort of coherency in the added English Descriptive Video Service audio option - which will tell you at the very least howwhatever is going on onscreen is going on.

Regular spec-wise, The Fifth Estate presents the movie in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (and is really a fine transfer overall) with an English 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio track in the lead, and 5.1 Dolby Digital options in both Spanish and French as backup. Subtitles are available in English (SDH), French, and Spanish. TV spots and trailers are also included in the special features department, and additional previews for other Touchstone/Dreamworks releases play upon boot-up.

In short: intent to relay us other peoples' alleged accounts of Julian Assange, it's little wonder Assange himself has denounced The Fifth Estate as nothing more than propaganda. Of course, when one stops to consider Disney's giant mouse hand is well-fixed in the mainstream media, you might wonder if there isn't some truth to Assange's claims. Of course, the disgraced WikiLeaks founder need not worry: with literally nothing going on here plot-wise - which leads to a somewhat bewildered cast left to each act out their very own parts from entirely different movies - the only Leaking that has occurred since this nudity-free R-rated dud was given the greenlight have been terrified pant leg wettings made by the project's own backers.

Hell, The Terror was more enjoyable.

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