Triggering our age of high-stakes secrecy, explosive news leaks and the trafficking of classified information, WikiLeaks forever changed the game. Now, in a dramatic thriller based on real events, the film reveals the quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned an Internet upstart into the 21st century's most...
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Triggering our age of high-stakes secrecy, explosive news leaks and the trafficking of classified information, WikiLeaks forever changed the game. Now, in a dramatic thriller based on real events, the film reveals the quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned an Internet upstart into the 21st century's most fiercely debated organization. The story begins as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg team up to become underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful. On a shoestring, they create a platform that allows whistleblowers to anonymously leak covert data, shining a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes. Soon, they are breaking more hard news than the world's most legendary media organizations combined. But when Assange and Berg gain access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in U.S. history, they battle each other and a defining question of our time: what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society-and what are the costs of exposing them?"
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It's clear that director Bill Condon at least tried to make The Fifth Estate interesting. Tight shots of fingers rapidly striking keyboards, fantasy sequences meant to represent the mysteries of how the website WikiLeaks functions, quick moments of the site's founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch, upstaged by his white hair) espousing philosophies like: "Man is least himself when he talks with his own person. But if you give him a mask, he will tell you the truth." It's all meant to create a sensation of hackers working against time and The Man. Locations shift, often filled with shaggy, off-beat characters, like mohawked weirdos who squat in an abandoned building and throw parties.
But maybe all those years with that exposition-heavy Twilight franchise has corrupted the director's skills. No matter how quickly he edits or pans the camera, it never hides the fact that all these characters do is tell each other what they are doing. The Fifth Estate must hold the record for most use of continuous expository dialogue to serve to explain what is happening to the audience rather than show it. The characters spend more time explaining their actions, behaviors and beliefs than doing much of anything. The film just builds up to a dull, monotonous bore.
Nothing in the film will surprise anyone who knows much of anything about WikiLeaks. But, man, does Condon try to squeeze every detail in. The director even finds a moment to not only allude to a viral video of Assange awkwardly dancing but puts us there. As if Cumberbatch's noble recreation of the goofy dancing is not enough, again the usual dialogue to explain what is happening amounts. "He's like an octopus," says one of Assange's followers to Assange's once most trusted man, Daniel Berg (Daniel Brühl, giving a sincere performance of the man who wrote the book which the movie is based). They then join in, trying to mimic him.
It all feels so connect-the-dots straight, it's hard to care about these characters. When the inevitable falling out occurs between Assange and Berg, the stakes grow higher, as moral concerns of leaking information are explained to the viewer. The director then brings in a White House representative (Laura Linney) and another U.S. official (Stanley Tucci) offering the voices of the fretting government over spilled secrets and frank cables. The switching of perspectives only serves to further dilute the film, and though Linney and Tucci give nice performances, there's nowhere to go with this movie, which cannot find anything more creative to do but try to cram in as much information as possible into its bloated two-hour-plus runtime.
It's not like such an abstract battlefield as cyberspace and information is easy to represent. But, had the film focused more intimately on the rather sociopathic character of Assange instead of maintaining his enigmatic quality, the film could have felt more compelling, even if incongruently balanced. It doesn't matter how fast and frantic you wiggle your fingers over a keyboard or how loud you make the keys clack, it all gets so tired fast, especially after the twentieth close up of the same sort of image.
But Escape Plan could never be great movie because its ambitions are aimed too low. It simply wants to emulate the great 80's action movies and do nothing more. While it feels like a somewhat close recreation, cinema has moved on a long time ago. The film doesn't try to turn the genre on its head, or do anything other than copy what came before it. There are moments where the film excites and thrills, but those moments are mostly callbacks to older and better movies, where the actors were younger, and could carry off the action more convincingly. This also begs the question of just how old are we supposed to think the two leads are?
Everyone's age is showing, and with each cinematic romp through 80's action clichés, it becomes a little less believable that these guys could perform the kinds of action scenes were supposed to believe they're preforming. Stallone's gait looks stiff and ragged, and it is at times impossible to believe that Arnold is a prison tough guy that can dispatch dozens of muscle-bound criminals without breaking a sweat. The suspension of disbelief is stretched paper-thin; instead of feeling like a triumphant return to the past, which it only manages to be at points, Escape Plan feels like a showcase of actors well past their prime struggling to hold on to the poses and personas that made them famous as their bodies slowly betray them.
The best aspect of Escape Plan is that it's a horrendously stupid movie that knows just how horrendously stupid it is, and it revels in that fact. It follows every tenet of dumb action movie logic to a T, but it does so with confidence and cheek. Even as you're sitting three steps ahead of the movie, you're waiting for it to catch up with a slight nostalgic smile, rather than sitting there bored. The problem is that it never becomes anything more than a traced copy of what came before it. The two aging leads bring everything they have to the table, but everything they have is looking weathered and starting to fray at the edges.
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