The Season of Benedict Cumberbatch officially begins on Friday, when the popular Sherlock actor appears in two festival films with Oscar ambitions. In 12 Years a Slave, which opens limited in six cities, he plays a morally compromised slave owner in the 1840s. But it’s The Fifth Estate where Cumberbatch takes center stage, starring as controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Influenced by The Social Network and All the President’s Men, director Bill Condon’s film tells the still-unfolding story of Assange’s underground website, which became a clearinghouse for industrial and state secrets leaked by whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning (né Bradley Manning), the U.S. Army private who published thousands of secret government documents about the wars in the Middle East.
Cumberbatch is icy and intense as Assange, the platinum-haired tech wiz who finds ways to rattle the cages of the most powerful organizations on the planet with a few simple key strokes. Daniel Brühl (Inglorious Basterds) co-stars as Assange’s more idealistic lieutenant, Daniel Berg, while Laura Linney and Stanley Tucci portray the U.S. State Department staffers who can feel the ground shift under their feet when WikiLeaks exposes some of the Americans’ dirty laundry.
One notable critic who’s already chimed in about the movie is Assange himself. Long story short… he didn’t like it. But what about the rest of the nation’s critics? It’s impossible to dislike Cumberbatch, yes? But even if they disapprove, he still has other chances to redeem himself: he also co-stars in the star-studded August: Osage County (Dec. 25), and provided the voice of a certain dragon in The Hobbit sequel (Dec. 13).
Click below to read what the critics are saying:
Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly)
“Condon is shrewd enough to depict Assange not as a hero but as a scoundrel crusader who tests the power of the Internet. The Fifth Estate is flawed (it grips the brain but not the heart), yet it feverishly exposes the tenor of whistle-blowing in the brave new world, with the Internet as a billboard for anyone out to spill secrets. Call it the anti-social network.” READ FULL STORY