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Fifth Estate: A Review

I blogged on Tuesday about the current situation with Assange and while I was researching some of that it brought back to my memory the film hollywood decided to make on wikileaks and Assange last year. I happened to find it on Netflix and figured I’d finally watch it now that it wouldn’t directly result in more money for the makers.

fifth estate I won’t deny there was a small part of me that hoped Hollywood had done a good job of making this film and capturing the Australian behind Wikileaks in some kind of fair way, while rising above all the swirling propaganda and hate the US politicians were spouting because it was their secret crimes Wikileaks exposed, but I was quite quickly disappointed. Hollywood has bowed to the pressure and created a story so far gone I almost despaired and gave up watching.

The film’s plot is a bit like a bromance gone wrong. Daniel Domscheit-Berg quite quickly meets Assange, sticks him up on some Messiah-like pedestal and then gets pissed off when he falls off it, like any human probably would (because believe it or not we’re not gods and perfect) and betrays him.

Fifth Estate duoThe film is pretty much from the point of view of Daniel, and rarely focuses on the actual work of Wikileaks, which Assange has dedicated a large number of years to. The few times it does mention the leaks it shows the possible negatives of the information getting out into other people’s hands, including the US government scrambling to save sources in middle-eastern countries because their cover had been blown and not entirely succeeding (despite the fact that the pentagon declared that no lives had been put at risk by those cables in the real world). Very occasionally it showed some of the positive results of the leaks, but it mostly glossed over them and always had them on the back of the negatives as if it was a sort of after thought.

fifth estate Cumberbatch AssangeAbout half way through watching I found I had to grab my laptop and take a look at why Benedict Cumberbatch took this role. He’s an actor I have a lot of respect for, I love his Sherlock and many other characters, but this isn’t a performance I can respect him for. I soon found that he’d said this.

“I wanted to create a three-dimensional portrait of a man far more maligned in the tabloid press than he is in our film to remind people that he is not just the weird, white haired Australian dude wanted in Sweden, hiding in an embassy behind Harrods.”

The trouble is the film’s scenes didn’t allow Cumberbatch anything but making Assange look like the weird white haired Australian dude wanted in Sweden. About the only thing they got right was his looks. But the also obsessed over some really really stupid details.

Julian Assange August 2014Several times during the film, Assange’s character stopped ranting about something releveant to mention why his hair went white. This was done several times to Daniel with a different explanation each time. It reminded me of the joker played by Heath Ledger and how he explains the scars on his face several different ways. Right at the end of the film Daniel happens to tell a British reporter, who is also pissed off at Assange, that Assange dies his hair white, like this is some all important massive revelation on his character and life goals.

Who gives a rat’s ass why Assange has white hair? Why would you spend so much of a film’s time fixating on the colour of someone’s hair? Also, really? You want to tell me that the man is so completely fixated on his personal image of having white hair that in the photo to the right and up he’s dyed his hair and beard but not his moustache? I don’t know about any of you but the photo makes it look very much like the guy has just gone white (and in a very graceful and suave way, I might add) and his facial hair is still catching up a bit. You also only need to do a google images search on Assange to quickly notice that all the photos of him looking younger have a brown/sandy coloured hair and only the more recent ones have his stylish white, so it’s definitely not something he’s been doing since he was a teenager.

fifth estate assangeThis brings me to the very end of the film. I actually thought the film might redeem itself a little at the end. It had Cumberbatch facing the camera as if he was being interviewed and talking about all sorts of different things. After making a few odd comments about films about him and generally being a bit strange he started to make a speech that was actually quite good.

“If you want the truth, no one is going to tell you the truth, they’re going to tell you their version. So if you want the truth, you have to seek it out for yourself. In fact that’s where power lies, in your willingness to look beyond this story, any story. And as long as you keep searching, you are dangerous to them. That’s what they’re afraid of: you. It’s all about you.”

The bit above is awesome, it’s true and it’s wonderful, but then it’s ruined by seven little words they tag right after.

“And a little bit about me too.” Honestly! There are so many things wrong with this. Firstly, from a sotrytelling point of view, it’s unrealistic. No matter if someone might think this, they’ve never say it in a serious interview if they had a brain, and I think it’s clear Assange does. Secondly, it smacks of agenda, as a writer there’s no way I’d ruin the speech above with these words unless I really didn’t want you to believe them but actually hate the guy who said it. and thirdly, even if someone was this egotistical in actions, in real life people just don’t tend to think like that. For Assange to be doing what he’s doing with Wikileaks I’m sure he must have a strong conviction that he’s right about needing to get these secrets out there and protect people from the lies their governments are telling them. Someone like that doesn’t think these things, let alone say them. Even in the off chance that they act that arrogantly, it’s never a conscious thought.

So to sum up. The film sucks and I’m glad I never paid for it. but the one good thing I’ll quote again for emphasis.

“If you want the truth, no one is going to tell you the truth, they’re going to tell you their version. So if you want the truth, you have to seek it out for yourself. In fact that’s where power lies, in your willingness to look beyond this story, any story. And as long as you keep searching, you are dangerous to them. That’s what they’re afraid of: you. It’s all about you.”

Star Trek, Into Darkness: A Review

This is one of the many films on my list to see at the cinema this year. It’s the second of the new sort of rebooted star trek films and I loved the first so here’s what I thought.

It started right in the mdidle of some action which is always a good sign for an action film and the action just kept coming. There was the odd thought provoking moment or funny comical snippet but for the most part this was action sequence after action sequence. The only annoying thing is the funniest part of the action was totally in the trailor and I didn’t laugh because I’d seen that bit already, several times.

Plot wise I think this one was weaker than the previous. It was still an all right plot but I think it focused a bit too much on the one single thing and didn’t have the complication of the previous one.

Despite the lesser plot it was still funny and definitely still hilarious to see the growing and changing relationship between new Kirk and new Spock. It’s so easy to get gags with the whole Vulcan logic stuff but they also managed to have some really heartfelt moments thanks to it as well. Vulcans sure are complicated and this film presented them well.

In terms of characterisation it was also great. The interaction between everyone was perfect and I really really liked Bones and Sulu in this one. I also totally loved when Kirk said revenge wasn’t right and there was a lot of moral thought provoking stuff.

On top of that there were also some great throwbacks to the original set of films and yet again, our gorgeous older Spock appeared. I won’t say when, why or how and plot spoil but they included him and it made me squee in delight.

Finally this brings me to one of my favourite actors, Benedict Cumberbatch. Now you may have twigged already that he’s my favourite actor in this film because of the three photos I’ve included which all feature him but I’d like to say this is not my fault. The Star Trek advertisers seem to have decided that they don’t need to let you know about anyone else in tha cast and almost every single poster, picture, ad etc. features our evil genius & nemesis, Benedict Cumberbatch.

I still can’t decide what I think of his character. He came across as really rather cold and while I normally love the roles this actor plays I really didn’t like this one. This isn’t a bad boy you can love or even love to hate, this is a bad guy who’s a real bad guy. As such I didn’t like him, at all.

He was super bad-ass, don’t get me wrong, there was a certain amount of coolness about some of the stuff he did, but boy was he cold! It’s either really really good acting and deliberate or bad acting and unintentional and I can’t decide which, but it did leave me a little dissapointed.

So to sum it up. It was a good action film and amusing enough but the plot and Cumberbatch left me wanting more.

The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey: A Review

So I eagerly went to see this film, trying really hard not to let the hype of this being another epic from Peter Jackson automatically make the film a dissapointment (films rarely live up to the hype of a trilogy where we’ve forgotten all the not so good bits and made the predecessors into the best films ever in our minds, on top of the excitment of delving back into middle earth).

So ignoring all the hype and ignoring the lord of the rings this film was amazing. The Hobbit is a lighter book than it’s sequel and Jackson managed to capture the extra child friendly atmosphere while still showing middle-earth to be a dangerous place.

It started off fairly slow, although no way near as slow as the Fellowship of the ring did and therefore matched the book again. The Hobbit was faster paced and I got the slight sense of must rush off and do this now.

Interestingly enough it was some of the quietest scenes I loved the most. There’s a beautiful scene not too far in where all the dwarves start singing. It’s the one from the trailor so forgive me for mentioning it, those who don’t like spoilers, but it had the entire cinema full of people in total silence, enraptured and I could feel the atmosphere it created in the room.

I do think it helped I was surrounded by a particularly engaged audience. There was a lot of laughter in all the right places and there was a collective ooo, and intake of breath hissed through our teeth when Bilbo said something he shouldn’t have done to one of the dwarves. I really think we all expected him to get a good smack for it.

On top of all that the fantastic cast were back from the first Trilogy. Galadriel being a particular favourite of mine and there were some gems between her and Gandalf. Those two know each other well and are evidently fond of each other.

Armitage made an absolutely fantastic Thorin Oakshield and really brought that role to life and Martin Freeman more than delivered as Bilbo. There was a hint of Frodo with a lot of Bilbo sillyness thrown in. Golem was also back and perfect. Everything had a pre-lord of the rings sort of innocence about it and yet still hinted at what might come later.

I also really liked how they managed to include enough information (depsite the faster pacing than the fellowship) to make sure anyone who hadn’t watched the first set of films would still know enough to understand what was happening. It’s actually made me quite hopeful that when this trilogy is done as well, they can all be watched in chronological order and feel like they belong that way arounfd.

Over all I actually think I liked this film more than one and perhaps even two of the trilogy (it’s going to take a little more to beat Return of The king). I am very excited about seeing the next two and have no qualms that Peter Jackson will manage to make it seem like it should be a trilogy as well. They hinted at quite a few things in this film that are events glossed over in the hobbit book but will be included in the trilogy and I am eager to see what they do with all the appendices material that belongs in this time frame.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: A Review

I didn’t get to see this one at the cinema but I saw it his summer on dvd. The trailor was amazing and it had Benedict Cumberbatch in it so I thought I’d really like it.

Maybe I built it up too much because I was excited by the trailor and actors as it didn’t quite live up to expectations. Maybe I also should have checked out what it was based on. The books and original tv series were very slow moving with a heck of a lot of detail on a lot of important things. There’s a lot of depth and this film was the same. It moved much slower than a similar genre film normally does but every scene, pause, breath and still frame was important to the plot.

Visually the film was very old feeling and made me think of the original Italian job which I actually quite liked. It felt cold war ish like the russians might turn round and a bomb our country at any moment if things went wrong. Not really very james bondish though, just important.

It was a very men’s men film. Everyone was well dressed and most sounded rather posh, especially Benedict and Colin Firth.

Unfortunately the plot was a little see through. I’d worked out who the bad guy was fairly early on and just watched the rest, although it was more the way the character acted than actual evidence. He just seemed to be the right fit.

I’m going to watch it again because I think I’ll notice more of the details the second time around and get more from it but I don’t think I’ll watch it too many times more than that.

Sherlock: A Review

Until last year I had never watched or read anything to do with Sherlock. The little I knew about him at the time consisted of him being a detective of crime who wore a deer stalker hat and had a doctor for an assistant.

I don’t particularly like crime books or tv programs. I usually find the characters quite dull and samey and the plot lines a little stretched. Naturally I had dismissed Sherlock as being just another one of these.

In January 2010 I watched the film of Sherlock with Robert Downey Jr as the dashing Mr Holmes. While I was still left with a slight feeling of this being just another random plot that wasn’t amazing and Sherlock was nothing that special, I was impressed that the film managed to get across how Mr Holmes saw certain things coming, just from observational clues, so he could forward plan for them to be prevented or encouraged (as he desired).

This was the over all impression I went away with, nothing great, but an underlying, perhaps unappreciated gift that Holmes had for observation.

Then I saw the BBC version of an updated Sherlock Holmes. Suddenly my whole opinion was turned upside down. Sherlock embodied something I couldn’t help but love. He was arrogant, rude, incredibly untactful, deliberately antagonistic to anyone he didn’t like and blunt to those he did; and I fell head over heels in love with him for it. I can’t entirely explain what it was I liked so much about this version of Sherlock, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, but he captivated me and I watched every episode at least twice each and some of them more, within the space of only ten days.

After spending a month or two thinking I then devoured the entire set of books and stories. I then spent another month thinking. From that point on I decided to make it my mission to figure out why exactly this character resonated so strongly with me and I think after a total of six months processing I may finally have figured it all out.

I want to challenge Sherlock Holmes. I want to fight him and I want to lose, just.

I naturally really enjoy dissecting characters and trying to figure out what the author intended him to be like and with Sherlock I was in heaven. Where other people saw his rudeness to people like Dr Watson I saw a care that ran so deep that Sherlock was doing everything he could to keep Watson safe, even if that included pushing him away on occasions. I essentially Sherlocked Sherlock. And not just from one point of view. I looked at him from the author’s point of view as well as the actor’s.

As I thought more and more about Sherlock I realised that he lives for only one thing and it totally consumes him. He’s so passionate about doing what he believes to be his ‘higher calling’ in life that nothing else really matters. He also appears to be both left brained and right brained. In the sense that he is both logical and yet very creative. There is nothing better in his eyes and nothing I enjoyed watching/reading more than the parts when Sherlock was getting to use both sides of his brain at the same time. He was so alive and aware that he was doing exactly what he thought was the best use of all of his life skills. He had created the perfect job out of knowing exactly what he was good at and combining them all into one task.

I guess you can say I felt challenged by Sherlock’s character as a person. Sherlock embodied some of the things I value about myself. I too enjoy using both sides of my brain. It was one of the sole motivators for my new language. It was even more than that though. It was the journey the author went on as well.

Reading through the written works in chronological order showed not just an evolving Sherlock but the author’s evolving idea of who he was and by the time it reached the end Sherlock was a masterpiece of character creation. Not only did the author turn Sherlock into a genius people could love and hate at the same time, he managed to knock off some of the rough edges and still keep the feel of the character consistent.

Now before anyone gets really worried I’m not about to turn to a life of crime and become the next Moriarty. I don’t actually view Moriarty as a good nemesis, and therefore a good role model. I think Sherlock would be infinitely more threatened by someone solving crimes better than the great detective does, than someone actually challenging him to solve their crimes. I want to respond to the challenge I felt Sherlock was issuing to me. The challenge of using both sides of my brain to their full potential, to use all my varied skill set together in one task and to analyse situations, circumstances and people so accurately from the clues the world naturally gives that I can stay one step ahead of anything that comes my way.

And the reason I want to lose despite wanting to fight him, well if I was the best where would the motivation be?