Snowden – Review

A so-so take on a different kind of heroism.

We live in a world of technology. Think of your laptops, tablets, phones – what do they have in common? Cameras. Imagine, just for a second, someone was watching you through them, someone you didn’t know or had control over. If you could exploit them, would you? That’s what Edward Snowden did, and this is his story, told thrillingly by Oliver Stone.

Edward Snowden leaked classified documents regarding mass government surveillance to the press in 2013. Beforehand, he went from a discharged soldier to NSA operative, but his experiences there led him to revealing the truth.

© – Open Road Films

Laura Poitras (played by Melissa Leo) documented the leak, and won an Oscar for it. The documentary is absolutely thrilling, but would make for excellent viewing after watching Snowden but not before it. The film heavily dramatises the story, meaning for those who have seen the actual events, it seems a bit botched for entertainment.

We see Snowden’s career journey, from Japan to Hawaii, in scenes that are captivating but flawed in areas. It doesn’t flow overly well, with some questionable decisions in editing – one sequence of information being transported across the grand, thieving network feels horribly cheap and amateurish, words I wouldn’t associate with Oliver Stone ordinarily.

Nevertheless the story of Snowden, particularly for the current generation, is hauntingly gripping and Stone has a firm hold on what works. We see Snowden discovering just how far the NSA reaches in its data collection, peering through a webcam to see a Muslim woman removing her veil and undressing. This a major turning point in the narrative, one that works perfectly.

© – Open Road Films

Joseph Gordon Levitt’s performance as the titular whistleblower is astonishingly uncanny, channelling many of the mannerisms of the man himself. Compared to some heightened aspects of the film, Levitt remains levelled and in turn becomes the highlight.

His supporting cast perform well also; Shailene Woodley plays down-to-earth, genuine girlfriend Lindsay. Rhys Evans is the sinister overseer to many of Snowden’s choices. Zachary Quinto plays journalist Glen Greenwald, who broke the initial story back in 2013. The excellent cast does have one flaw however; the film can’t escape the big-picture feel, something that may take away some of the impact from Snowden.

Snowden himself makes a cameo too, in a scene that’ll either make you smile massively or frown depending on your views him. One thing is for sure though – this is an impassioned piece of work (albeit blatantly bias), that pays off in many areas but misses a beat in others.

To sum it up…

Stone’s Snowden is a high-pressure thriller, appealing to your inner paranoia which will likely make you support the dividing hero. But if you are really interested in the saga, watch Poitras’ Citizenfour instead.

Rating: No Bad 

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Author: Cameron Frew


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Cameron Frew

Freelance film writer. Words on Flickering Myth, Bloody Disgusting, Movie Corner UK and Jumpcut Online. My five favourite films are: 1. The Goonies 2. Forrest Gump 3. The Shawshank Redemption 4. Warrior 5. Whiplash

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