TORONTO — The first squeal went up at exactly 7:00 p.m. last night, as crowds lined the streets outside of Roy Thompson Hall awaiting the premiere of The Fifth Estate and the arrival of fan favorite Benedict Cumberbatch on the opening night of the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
In Estate, director Bill Condon (The Twilight Saga) charts the growth of Julian Assange (Cumberbatch), Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) and their organization, WikiLeaks. All three men say the film raises complex questions about what should be public and private, and that it's ultimately a prologue to the case of Edward Snowden. Despite these grand intentions, straw polls indicate the hoi polloi are less unconvinced, and seem as mixed on the movie as the public is on Assange himself.
"Is he a hero? In many ways," Cumberbatch said, parroting Rolling Stone's question. "I think that's part of what I admire. He turned an idea into a reality – one that's still affecting our lives and the way we view mainstream media. What he's shaken up is fascinating. It's an ongoing debate – we'll see how it pans out – but I'm full of admiration of him."
Co-star Daniel Bruhl, who plays Assange's right-hand man, added, "[The film] deals with issues that concern every one of us, like freedom of information." He went on to insist, in a popular red carpet talking point, that the film is all about complexities. "It's not a black and white movie, it's not a movie against Julian Assange and it's not an anti-WikiLeaks film."
Despite its ambitions (and early buzz for Cumberbatch), the blogosphere's self-described "Oscarologists" appear unimpressed by those complexities, and are already counting this one out of the Academy race. Some dismiss it as a clunky, confusing, hagiography; others as undisguised attack on Julian Assange.
But Condon, who like the stars hasn't talked to the white-haired whistleblower, insists he sought balance. In introducing the film, Condon added, "As we have seen in the Edward Snowden case, this is a story that continues to be central. As filmmakers, what we're trying to do with this movie is not give answers but raise questions and hopefully present the issue in all it's complexity."