The Plot: "The Fifth Estate" focuses on the relationship between WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg, which is tested as the website becomes increasingly powerful.
The Pedigree: The film is directed by Bill Condon, who won an Oscar for writing "Gods and Monsters" (1998) and was nominated again for his script for 2003 Best Picture champ "Chicago." He also helmed "Kinsey" (2004), which earned a Supporting Actress bid for Laura Linney, and "Dreamgirls" (2006), which won that category for Jennifer Hudson.
The screenplay is by Josh Singer, based on a book by Domscheit-Berg, and another by British journalists Luke Harding and David Leigh. It's Singer's first feature screenplay, but his TV credits include scripts for "The West Wing" and "Fringe."
The cast is led by rising stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl (above) and also includes Linney, Dan Stevens ("Downton Abbey"), Anthony Mackie ("The Hurt Locker"), and David Thewlis ("Harry Potter").
Among ts producers is Steve Golin, who reaped a Best Picture bid for "Babel."
The Promise: Condon may be an Oscar champ, but his most recent recognition was at the Razzies when he won Worst Director for "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2."
That makes this a potentially significant film for his career; it could signal a welcome return to form now that he has cashed his checks for the popular teen franchise. While the "Twilight" films may not have garnered critical plaudits, they were blockbusters at the box office, and that kind of success speaks volumes in Hollywood.
Condon has directed five performers to Oscar nominations (and Hudson to a victory), which may be good news for Cumberbatch, who plays Assange. The actor has already developed a cult following for the British TV series "Sherlock," which earned him Emmy and Golden Globe nominations in 2012. His resume also includes roles in the Oscar-nominated "Atonement," "War Horse," and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."
2013 could turn out to be a very good year for the actor: he also appears in the likely blockbusters "Star Trek Into Darkness" and "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," as well as the highly anticipated "August: Osage County" and "Twelve Years a Slave." And playing a recognizable real-life figure doesn't hurt: in the last 10 years, seven Best Actor winners have played real people.
It could also be a breakthrough year for his co-star Bruhl. The German actor is not well known to American audiences, but he had a prominent role in "Inglourious Basterds" and this year also has a starring role in Ron Howard's "Rush."
The story's subject matter – the controversial, activist journalism of Wikileaks – may also be especially relevant in the current cultural and political climate.
Christopher Nolan broke through at the Oscars with a screenplay nomination for "Memento" in 2001. He gained further acclaim in 2008 with "The Dark Knight," leading to widespread outrage when the film was snubbed for Best Picture and Best Director. Its exclusion is believed to be one of the catalysts for the Academy's expansion of Best Picture to 10 films. And there was further outrage when his 2010 film "Inception" was nominated for Best Picture, but Nolan was once again left out of the Best Director lineup.
Film: Tom O'Neil (Gold Derby) only one to go 5/5
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