A superb cast in a story not fully developed around Julian Assange’s figure. A man who became overnight the media star for his role through the famous WikiLeaks in publishing notorious global secrets , including documents and diaries of the U.S. war in Afghanistan and Iraq that made the country responsible for war crimes. A true story, based on what we have experienced recently and is an approach to troubled characters , sometimes dark, sometimes moved by honorable intentions, but above all, part of recent historical events, especially in the world of journalism where Assange and his friend Daniel Berg on their way tried to become a sort of modern Woodward and Bernstein (the journalist who discovered the Watergate), but they along the way because … well, if we accept the word of Berg’s book in which is partly based the film, due to excessive Assange’s special character , making him a fugitive and what keeps him refuge in a South American embassy in London.
Bill Condon is set to direct the film with his interesting style, though in this case closer to Gods and Monsters than Twilight, although sometimes is hard to believe that this same man directed Candyman 2 almost 20 years ago. In this case is driven by many diverse influences that sometimes work and sometimes not, from All the President’s Men, to The Social Network, going even for thrillers as Body of Lies, in a constant tug of war between what you want to be seen on screen and the reality of what it really shows. As it happened with jOBS, a story perhaps too close in time (although that was never an impediment for All the President’s Men, that is an awesome movie) , which does not touch all the issues that really matter in the film.
Because, let’s face it, the lights and shadows of Assange are what made him such a fascinating character. The fact that he was willing to expose truths that no one wanted to see, while facing governments, banks and corporations simply by the fact of bringing the truth to light, or maybe to gain notoriety, but without fearing the repercussions that could be taken against him. And he is also a guy who is accused of sexually abusing a woman and wanted by the Swedish justice for that fact. Or able to release any information without editing or altering, endangering the lives of many people only. Dangerous, terrible, committed to the truth … but a liar after all (the subject of his hair is one of the best of the film, reminiscent of The Dark Knight’s Joker with his scars, as he tells their origin).
But the film is determined to not talk about certain issues, as fearing to offend, as the subject of the violation and subsequent indictment ( Assange first claimed not to know the woman, later said he did, but he did nothing … something that the film addresses only obliquely, unfortunately), and finally to go warily, stays at times in no man’s land. It stays halfway between the thriller, drama and biography, but without committing to any particular genre. Those are his wekanesses, that ambiguity and that curious way of approaching the story without getting really deeply involved at all. And like Jobs, the depth of the character required going for it, not messing with half ideas and explore everything. Choose a path and not wander because that makes the pace of the film suffers.
It’s seen with pleasure especially for the impressive cast . That Benedict Cumberbatch in a state of grace that is able with just a glance to talk of loneliness, paranoia, lust for fame and all the vices and virtues of such a complex character as unique, marked by his childhood as by what he has done with his life. But perhaps the most complex character is the true protagonist of the story, Daniel Berg played by the always brilliant Daniel Bruhl, in this particular case a character not in the spotlight, who lives in the shadow of the notoriety of Assange, who is a confused man who has seen the rise of the hero and his fall into hell. A journey of faith in which Bruhl holds every one of his scenes with Cumberbatch, which is saying something. And, again, is his point of view of history. He is the real protagonist.
But do not forget names like David Thewlis, Peter Capaldi or small roles like the ones played by Laura Linney and Stanley Tucci. If there is a real reason to see the film the cast is definitely that reason. They nail it and lead us in this unique journey through recent history. And Condon has magnificent moments in the director’s chair, as the representation of the virtual «offices» of Wikileaks, and how they evolve throughout the film until the end. Or the moments of thriller and suspense, kind of a spy film, like the story in Libya with the informant (though not well resolved in the end, I think) , or Bruhl travelling to Switzerland at the beginning of the film. With all that we have an interesting movie, which attacks at times both the established power as certain messiah savior of humanity with their own ideas and hidden intentions and agenda, like Assange. From just distrusting each other. And, as I said before, it wants to be All the President’s Men, but is closer to Jobs and The Social Network, but is far superior to the first. And the plot feels good. An acting school at the end, for the work of the actors, in an interesting, though not perfect, biopic.
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