America’s faith in the Academy dipped just a bit when The King’s Speech took Best Picture over The Social Network. David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s caustic, acrid illustration of Mark Zuckerberg’s development of Facebook earned accolades as the “defining” film of its generation, imbuing the story of the social media website’s birth with an emotionally deft, all-important gravitas. But imagine, if you will, just how affective the film would have been if it were about a website that really mattered. One like WikiLeaks, which earns the spotlight in the new film The Fifth Estate, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange.
The intense first trailer for the biographical story seems to hit a few of the same notes as did The Social Network: An independently-created website that rose from obscurity to international fame. A rivalry between creators as one seems to veer off the path of nobility toward narcissism. A whole bunch of nerds. But what distinguishes The Fifth estate is the height of the stakes. Whereas Facebook’s biggest accomplishment might be to reconnect two childhood friends who haven’t spoken since their spat in 10th grade, WikiLeaks opened the public’s eyes to government secrets that Assange believed the world deserved to know.
So how much more invigorating would a story like The Social Network be if it had this degree of severity attached to it? From the looks of the trailer, quite a bit.