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The Fifth Estate

October 24, 2013

Carrie (**) R

Director Kimberly Pierce has only made two additional films since she burst onto the scene with her Oscar winning 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry. Pierce showed real promise back then so it’s kind of a surprise to see that she’s now chosen the conventional path of remaking a film such as Carrie. It’s a dicey proposition when one considers how iconic and beloved Brian DePalma’s 1976 original has become in the nearly four decades that have passed since its release. Carrie is held in high esteem by many film fans—myself included—so another take on this Stephen King novel is not the film that many of us have exactly been clamoring for.

I know that I don’t have to tell you that Carrie did not need to be remade. That’s a given and anyone with sense enough to tie their own shoelaces knows that already.

Moretz ‘too pretty’ to play Carrie?

I could jump start this review by telling you about all of the things that didn’t work in the new version of Carrie, and there are plenty, but that would be the obvious thing to do. Instead, what I will do is mention some of the things that did work in the film, for starters anyway.

I’ll assume that the film’s plot of a bullied, teenage girl named Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz), endowed with telekinetic powers, is familiar to most readers. If you know that, you probably also remember that Carrie’s mother, Margaret (Julianne Moore), is a portrait of religious fanaticism taken to the nth degree.

The story, of course, culminates with Carrie wrecking havoc on her tormenting classmates after she finds herself the butt of a wicked prank played out against the backdrop of the high school prom.

And speaking of the sequence where Carrie’s classmates get their just desserts, that’s some of the best stuff in the new film. The original film was made for just a tad over a million dollars. Obviously, Pierce and company had a bit more financial muscle to flex here and it works to the film’s favor. There’s some real inventiveness on display here in terms of how the band of merry pranksters are dispatched immediately following their caper. The details are too numerous to mention. I’ll just say it was one of the few times the film seemed to come alive for me.

I said I wouldn’t start out the review by pointing out what was wrong with Carrie 2013, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t end it that way. The lead performances are okay, with the exception of Moretz, who is simply too pretty to be convincing as Carrie. Julianne Moore gets to read some of the exact lines that Piper Laurie had in the original film, and though Moore is a good actress, she can’t hold a candle to Laurie’s ferociously frightening performance there. It also doesn’t help that the teen performers in the film are mostly bland and indistinguishable. Add to that Marco Beltrami’s bland musical contribution, coupled with director Pierce’s odd lack of stylishness, and you’re left with a good excuse to revisit the original film.

The Fifth Estate (** ½) R

I’m sure many of you are wondering why a film, whose subject is the Wikileaks scandal and its ringleader Julian Assange, is titled The Fifth Estate. I was wondering about that too and it’s finally explained in the final reel when Assange, at the height of his arrogance, declares that mainstream journalism is the fourth estate and that his creation is the Fifth Estate.

This declaration, of course, is around the same time that the Wikileaks site became even bigger news than it already was by posting a huge cache of military and U.S. State Department memos that were quite damning. The scene illustrates just how full of himself Assange had become at this point. Much like the banks and governments, entities whose security his site had breached along the way, Assange had come to believe that he was untouchable. Of course, he later found out differently.

The arc of the film follows a young hacker named Daniel Berg (Daniel Bruhl, recently seen in Rush), who is quite enamored of Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) in the beginning. Berg is the kind of guy who, if Assange had asked him to jump, he would’ve asked ‘how high.’

Cumberbatch & Bruhl in Fifth Estate

One gets the sense that there’s nothing that Berg won’t do for Assange, even if it means that his personal life might take a backseat. Berg feels that what the two men are doing is a good thing and he doesn’t question the larger ramifications of things, at least for awhile.

That is until Assange’s tipsters start dying in alarming numbers. The two men eventually butt heads over Assange’s policy of posting his stories with no redactions. Berg believes that there are ways to get the information out to the public without jeopardizing the lives of the informants. Assange, obviously, has a different take on things.

There are some great moments in The Fifth Estate. Director Bill Condon (Kinsey, Dreamgirls) visually conveys the story in some arresting and inventive ways. When the film does hit the occasional lull, there’s always another interesting set piece waiting just around the corner so it would be hard to pidgeonhole the film as being boring. I would suspect that the less one knows about the WikiLeaks saga, the more invested they might be in the film.

The main problem I had with the film was its muddiness in relation to Assange’s motivations for doing what he does. Condon does pepper the film with the occasional flashback in order to give us some sense of Assange’s troubled childhood and the reasons as to why he’s so obsessed with getting the truth out there. The problem is that it just isn’t enough. For those who are interested in just the nuts and bolts of the WikiLeaks story, The Fifth Estate may keep you sufficiently involved. For anyone hoping for more psychological insight into what makes Julian Assange tick, you’re likely to come up empty handed.

Both movies are playing at the Carmike in Hickory and area theaters.

Questions or comments? Email Adam at



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