Whatever your opinion of him may be, hero, martyr, villain or just an odd Aussie guy with unusual hair, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is surely one of the era's most polarising figures. With the maverick hacker still taking refuge in London's Ecuadorian embassy, and his story seemingly having a distance yet to travel, it seems somewhat premature for a biopic. But that's exactly what The Fifth Estate is providing.
The film, which was previously known as The Man Who Sold The World, sees director Bill Condon (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn) swapping vampires for controversial true life figures.
"It may be decades before we understand the full impact of WikiLeaks and how it's revolutionised the spread of information," says Condon. "So this film won't claim any long view authority on its subject, or attempt any final judgement. We want to explore the complexities and challenges of transparency in the information age and, we hope, enliven and enrich the conversations WikiLeaks has already provoked."
Adapted by Josh Singer from David Leigh, Luke Harding and Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s books, Fifth Estate will track the heady, early days of WikiLeaks, when the site and Assange himself exploded into worldwide infamy thanks to some highly confidential – and classified – document leaks.
Rather than an origin story for Assange, or a cloak and dagger thriller set among the zeroes and ones of the hacking community, The Fifth Estate sensibly ties both strands into a tale of fraying friendship.
The bond between Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his closest confederates, Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl), first buckles then breaks under the strain of global scrutiny and power politicking.
This pair of leads are in impressively good company, with Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones, Captain America: First Avenger), Laura Linney (The Savages), Anthony Mackie (The Adjustment Bureau), David Thewlis (War Horse), Peter Capaldi (In The Loop), Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey), Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina) and Carice van Houten (Black Book) lending support.
The Fifth Estate is out on 1 January 2014.