‘The Fifth Estate’ And The Shifting Perception Of Julian Assange

The trailer for Bill Condon’s Julian Assange biopic The Fifth Estate is here, focusing on the Collateral Murder video and the Icelandic banks, and full of swelling music, people telling Assange that he could have brought down the Berlin Wall sooner, and Assange telling us all that we need to demand the truth for ourselves. Conspicuously absent from the movie’s selling points? Bradley Manning, the sexual assault allegations against Assange, and the endgame at the Ecuadorian embassy, all inconveniently complicating elements if you want to paint Assange as a sole-actor visionary hero:

Let’s hope some of that material makes it in there, both for the sake of the story, and for the sake of the historical record. But the Assange story is a good example of the risks for Hollywood of jumping on a breaking news story that hasn’t approached its conclusion. Given how many movies about Assange are in production, I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up representing the timeline of (some) public opinion about the WikiLeaks co-founder, from unadulterated admiration to a darker, more complex portrait. Being first is nice. But sometimes it risks ending up making the result looks dated.