Earlier this week, social media was buzzing when the trailer for a new fall movie was released. The Fifth Estate is an upcoming thriller film about the life of Julian Assange, creator of the website WikiLeaks, and his partner Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Assange, who is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is on a quest to expose government secrets and creates an online news-leaking website in the name of truth and justice.
The movie is based on a book written by Domscheit-Berg entitled WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World's Most Dangerous Website, as well as the book WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy, by journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding.
The reasoning behind WikiLeaks, in the words of Assange, was to, “…provide an innovative, secure, and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists. We are fearless in our efforts to get the unvarnished truth out to the public.”
In an interview with Vulture.com, Director Bill Condon explains that the movie title and tagline, “You Are The Fifth Estate” is about today’s rapid growth of citizen journalism and the major role the internet plays in the instant spread of information.
“I think it's hard to come down cleanly on one side because this is all just unbelievably complicated,” Condon says. “Only by getting involved and understanding the issues can people come to an informed decision of their own. I think the movie does show, in an exciting way, just how complicated these issues are.”
In an interesting twist, Assange was outraged upon hearing about the movie, saying that it was a “serious propaganda attack on WikiLeaks." Assange had a falling out with Domscheit-Berg after he published his book because Assange was upset at how certain events were portrayed. But Condon assures that this movie is not anti-WikiLeaks. Rather, he argues, it sets out to celebrate the idea of WikiLeaks and its huge potential.
This poses the main question of the movie; is Assange a traitor, or a hero? It’s a question the world has been grappling with since his rise to fame, and it’s one that has since been highly debated in light of Edward Snowden’s actions.
Some conservatives would argue that Assange’s actions were a noble idea – that he continues to release confidential information in hopes of tearing down power-hungry leaders and obtrusive governments around the world. Others would say that his actions have directly threatened national security and made large governments vulnerable to smaller, more radical groups looking for a reason to rebel.
These modern-day whistleblowers have shocked the nation; while at times, their approach may seem abrupt and disturbing, one can’t help but think that they’re only trying to open the eyes of the public so we can take a closer look at what’s really going on in our world.
While we don’t know exactly whose favor the movie will play out in, it has already garnered plenty of attention, and October 11th can’t come soon enough.