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The Man Who Knew Too Much | The Indian Express

There is something belittlingly tragic about the man who shook up the mightiest country in the world through avowed goals of truth,justice and transparency,finding refuge in an Ecuadorian embassy. Ironically,it says as much about the forces he is fighting,as what the forces have to say about him. And its more than what The Fifth Estate manages to say about Julian Assange,one of the greatest mysteries of this short century who is a mad prophet for some and prophetically mad for others. Rather than any great insight into the WikiLeaks founder,the film is a ringside view of events that have been in the public domain,leading up to the release of the cables with which Assange finally overreached himself. Assange,who has been vociferous in his opposition to the film,is right in some ways in calling it the anti-WikiLeaks film. As The Fifth Estate itself portrays,he would have taken particular umbrage to having had to share equal billing with his ex-partner Daniel Berg,played by Bruhl. One of the two books on which the film is based was written by Berg Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the Worlds Most Dangerous Website. In The Fifth Estate,Berg is projected as the stable guy who separated fact from the fiction that came WikiLeakss way,the guy who drew the line when it mattered,and the one who broke away when Assange crossed boundaries. It doesnt just take away from his story,as the real Assange feels. It also takes away from The Fifth Estate as Cumberbatch paints a delicious portrait of Assange as an unstable,suspicious,edgy genius,vulnerable and exposed even while keeping his own secrets hidden somewhere dark and deep. Bruhl,in contrast,is the dour second and every time the camera moves away from Assange,the film loses some more of the otherworldliness that it is obviously striving for. It hints at this otherworldliness in many ways,the most common device being putting Assange and Berg alternatively in a huge hall with a row of vacant computer desks. It is eerie when the first such scene exposes Assanges lies of having thousands of volunteers working for him. It gets tired as Condon keeps falling back on it. The director treads The Social Network territory in portraying a phenomenon of our times as a struggle of two men. However,the brief on Assange was always going to be different. To be fair to Condon,he would have been damned if he focused on either just the man behind the stories or just the stories behind the man. In going for both though,he cant do justice to either. It is not easy to capture that netherworld of big data,big lies,big governments and big corporations. Condon tries the pixellated form,he has texts scrolling on the screen,he has people bundled around machines,but where he succeeds the most is in lighting up the film as an elongated set piece in darkened rooms lit by light streaming from computer screens. Assange,with his platinum blond locks,appears like a screen apparition throughout. A better film would know,however,that it was what happened away from that screen that mattered. What made Assange both a man who claimed to be fighting for the weakest and apparently a megalomaniac fighting only for himself? What brought him to where he came and why he insisted on going further? What demons he battles turning him into this social outcast in the autistic spectrum? All we get is Bergs biased word on it. Tucci and Linney,in brief roles as top US state department officials fighting the fallout of the WikiLeakss exposes,provide the only human touch on the other side. While effective,they only serve to perpetuate the myth.
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