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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - January 2014

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 "The Fifth Estate" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-january-2014-fifth

Synopsis

Based on true events, The Fifth Estate tells the story of Julian Assange and the rise of WikiLeaks. Assange and co-founder Daniel Berg start an information revolution when they decide to create an anonymous website where whistle-blowers can freely distribute documents that would otherwise be unavailable to the public. These documents implicate leaders at the highest levels in government and business. Assange and Berg’s intent is to expose truth while protecting sources but things quickly spin out of control. After a series of high-profile leaks, the site receives its biggest submission yet: a huge database of Afghanistan war logs and diplomatic cables that exposes operatives and communications that have vastly far-reaching consequences. At this point, Berg and the other members of Assange’s inner circle decide that things have gotten out of hand and they force him out.

Specifications

  • Dreamworks
  • 2013, Color, Rated R, 2 Hrs 8 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS HD Master
  • Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Brühl, David Thewliss
  • Directed by: Bill Condon
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Brief
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

With almost daily updates about NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the world has largely forgotten about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. While whistle-blowing is nothing new, the Information Age has made it possible to send pretty much any document around the world in milliseconds where it can be read by anyone and everyone. Told as a thriller, The Fifth Estate does a good job of portraying Assange as an almost wildly egotistical revolutionary, and Berg as the level-headed assistant who tries desperately to keep things under control. The film moves a bit slowly for the first half, but once the Afghanistan war logs come into the story, the pace picks up quite a bit. There’s never a real sense that Assange or Berg are in danger. Rather, the film portrays the danger faced by innocent people mentioned in the documents and how information can be a terrible weapon when placed in the wrong hands. While there isn’t much action per se, the tension and historical interest make the film a good watch. Definitely recommended. 

Technical

The image is shot mainly with handheld cameras which imparts a sort of news-footage feel. Fortunately, the shaky-cam effect is used sparingly. You won’t need Dramamine to get through this one! There is lots of dark material that exhibits a bit of crush but at least black levels are nice and deep. There is no apparent edge enhancement and film grain is used to great effect. The only other flaw in an otherwise excellent Blu-ray is occasional softness; which is more likely to be a camera focus issue than a problem with the transfer.

The DTS-HD Master Audio track is rich and dynamic with plenty of detail. The surround speakers are used very effectively to create a realistic and immersive soundstage. The sub only comes into play during the techno-funk music that is used in transitional scenes. Otherwise, bass is a little wanting. Dialog is top-shelf though with crystal clear rendering and no hint of chestiness.

Extras

Bonus features include featurettes on the special effects used and the scoring of the film. Also on the disc are trailers and TV spots. The package I received has the Blu-ray along with DVD and a digital copy download code for use on digitalcopyplus.com.