‘The Fifth Estate’: What Critics Are Saying About Benedict Cumberbatch

'Star Trek Into Darkness' star does 'a commanding impersonation' of WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, critics say.

Benedict Cumberbatch has become identified as one of the most beloved and respected actors working today in an absurdly short amount of time, and this weekend, he gets his first shot at supporting a weighty real-life drama, the WikiLeaks film “The Fifth Estate.”

Critics are generally split on the effectiveness of the film in portraying the ripped-from-the-headlines story, but Cumberbatch is receiving praise for his mannered performance as the eccentric Julian Assange. To get a better idea of how his work is being reviewed, here’s a round up of critical reactions to “The Fifth Estate”:

“Cumberbatch, in stringy long white-blonde hair that looks a bit too much like the wig it is, does a commanding impersonation of Assange’s imperiousness, his whole louche Continental narcissism. His Julian is handsome in a scowling way, with a pout of aggrievement fixed on his soft, pale, babyish features, and the actor lowers his voice to a slightly slurry bass register, as if he were so full of venom that it had depressed him.” — Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

“Given the talents of Cumberbatch and Brühl, whose credits include ‘Good Bye, Lenin,’ ‘Inglourious Basterds’ and the current ‘Rush,’ it is no surprise that the interplay between Assange and Domscheit-Berg, the way their relationship shifted from engaged collaborators to enraged antagonists, is the film’s greatest strength. … Obsessed and arrogant, committed and charismatic, Assange is certainly a complicated, compelling character, and Cumberbatch does a convincing job of creating a lone wolf provocateur who speaks in slogans like ‘change is contagious’ and never doubts he is on the side of the angels. Guardian editor David Leigh, whose book is one of the film’s sources, has been quoted as saying Cumberbatch’s imperturbable performance is ‘creepily like the Julian I knew,’ and it is the heart of the film as well.” — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

“The movie is all about him and thus about Cumberbatch. The actor, who brought his plummy hauteur to the revived Khan character in ‘Star Trek Into Darkness,’ and who co-stars in this week’s ’12 Years a Slave,’ manages to occupy, glamorize and parody Assange. He is a mix of tics and grandeur, a creature apart and above, both worldly and otherworldly. No one so conscious of his own legend and so practiced in promoting it is likely also to be a decent, caring human being.” — Richard Corliss, Time Magazine

“Benedict Cumberbatch has the character in hand from the start — his way of brushing into another’s space and making it his office, of not seeing others unless they’re reflecting back some of the energy he emits, of elevating himself by making others’ concerns sound trivial. The actor brings extra ambiguity to scenes in which Assange is ostensibly opening up to people; only once (when activist associates in Kenya are killed) do his emotions seem untainted by manipulative play-acting.” — John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter

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