Genre: Historical/Political Thriller
Director: Oliver Stone
Running Time: 138 minutes
Main Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Nicolas Cage, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson and Rhys Ifans.
Is Edward Snowden a Hero or a villain? Did he need to tell the world about what the American security agencies were doing? It’s up to you to decide when watching Oliver Stone’s new historical thriller, Snowden.
The narrative is structured around a back-n-forth mentality, taking us from the ‘present day’ to the past. The film opens with Snowden meeting up with the journalists that helped him expose classified surveillance information to the world. All 3 journalists portrayed in the film were in the Oscar winning documentary Citizenfour director Laura Poitras, featuring Guardian Journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill. They are trying to gain the information from him before he is captured and this is how we are introduced to how Snowden obtained the information. Using flashbacks we go back to different stages through the time period of 2004-2013, as we are taken from his short time in the army before 2 broken legs saw that career ended, into his CIA training before we head into the nitty gritty stuff that Snowden was doing for the CIA and NSA.
Snowden is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and is joined by Shailene Woodley (Snowden’s Girlfriend, Lindsey Mills), Melissa Leo (Poitras), Zachary Quinto (Greenwald), Tom Wilkinson (MacAskill), Rhys Ifans (CIA Mentor, Corbin O’Brian) and we are also treated to a cameo from Nicolas Cage, who plays a caretaker of old computers at the training facility Snowden attended. Adding a bit of humor to the film as few directors would put Cage into the bowels of CIA Headquarters.
Stone delivers another post 9/11 political thriller, although at times it doesn’t feel like a thriller, more just a dramatization of facts and theories on the story of Snowden. This is its down point, as we don’t know what is actual fact and what is fiction. One scene in particular is hard to establish if it is real or just a dramatization. There are blurred lines through many of the scenes as you try to establish fact from theory and it takes away from the film.
Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of Snowden is well done as he nails all the personality traits of the real life Snowden. He speaks in low, brainy tones, which is very similar to how Snowden speaks in real life and brings all the mannerisms of a man who is a computer genius. But you can avoid the feeling that this Snowden is portrayed in a warm manner. Stone shapes Gordon-Levitt’s Snowden to feel complex and human, allowing the viewer to connect with him on an emotional level, therefor making us feel sorry for the man that thought he was only doing the right thing. Which in my opinion was. Stones shot choices when Snowden is exposed to what the American government agencies is doing enables us to see that Snowden is horrified by this, therefor making us also feel horrified at what we are seeing on screen. Every time Snowden is exposed to something new relating to the NSA spying on the world’s citizens adds to his argument of Snowden was just being the hero, and you may begin to portray him as a hero or a traitor, depending on how you perceive this film.
Overall it is an interesting story that is well crafted to express the story of Snowden and give us a new take on how to perceive the whistle-blower. Do we see him as a hero or do we see him as a villain. For me he is a hero.
The Front Row Opinion