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The Fifth Estate

The rise of WikiLeaks, including its controversial publication of more than a quarter million U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010, makes for a polished and engrossing Hollywood thriller, smartly scripted by West Wing veteran Josh Singer.

In some respects this mimics The Social Network, with complex graphics hammering home the technical innovations that drive the story and a central conflict between two unequal collaborators who eventually fall out with each other—in this case Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who invented the online clearinghouse for whistleblower documents, and Daniel Berg (Daniel Brühl), whose book about WikiLeaks was denounced by Assange and became source material for this film.

Singer wisely avoids the murky sexual assault charges subsequently leveled against Assange, sticking instead to the more vexing question of whether WikiLeaks represents the death of responsible journalism or a necessary challenge to a defunded and compromised fourth estate.

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