The saga of WikiLeaks, the hotly debated internet disclosure portal for government secrets, went from news-(back)story-of-the-decade to who-cares indifference by the time this Bill Condon film came out. What the heck happened? Old news? Lack of star power? Or did we never notice it was gone . . . or ever been around? A more likely answer is that Condon gussies up his material with so much obfuscating visual style and sotto voce dialogue mumbling, it’s all but impossible to follow the action; so worried about losing his audience with a dry run-thru of events, he overcompensates with technical dazzle when he should be clarifying action, characters & general import. As WikiLeaks head Julian Asssange, Benedict Cumberbatch comes off as such a self-regarding arrogant creep, you can’t imagine him gaining anyone’s trust, let alone a cult following. While his erstwhile partner, Daniel Brühl, makes no impression at all, a blob. (For a giddy moment or two, you think Laura Linney just might be playing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Alas, she’s just a career State Department sort. Sigh.) Midway into the third act, the story focus narrows to follow the huge cache of US military info WikiLeaks got from Pvt. Bradley Manning and Condon figures he can drop the Attention Deficit direction without losing our interest. He’s right, the personalities & drama suddenly take hold. But it’s too little, too late.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: In the ‘70s, paranoid political thrillers were a genre unto themselves. Richard Condon (no relation to Bill) wrote the screwiest, never more so than his JFK Conspiracy slapstick-thriller WINTER KILLS/’79.