Snowden

Directed by Oliver Stone, Snowden is a fascinating dramatization of the true life story of Edward Snowden and the largest leak in American intelligence history. Although obviously biased in favor of Snowden’s actions, the film is surprisingly less heavy-handed and controversial than what would be expected from such a famous provocateur as Oliver Stone. Much of the movie is a series of flashbacks to Snowden’s past during an interview with the journalists that publicized the damning allegations that he revealed about the US government in 2013. In fact, the interview was the basis for the 2014 Academy award-winning documentary Citizenfour. This film feels like another way to tell the all-too-familiar story, packaged as a gripping thriller about a complicated figure with a unusual background. Starting with his experience at bootcamp as an idealistic Army recruit, the movie chronicles Snowden’s progression through the CIA, NSA, and intelligence defense contractors. At the same time, the viewer is presented with a love story: the ups and downs of Snowden’s relationship with his long-time girlfriend Lindsay Mills played by Shailene Woodley. As a result, Oliver Stone tries to humanize the story in a way in which we can sympathize with Edward Snowden the human who struggles with his conscience and allegiance to his country. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is what makes the film really stand out with his terrifically realistic performance, complete with having an eerily similar voice as the real-life Edward Snowden. This authenticity becomes clear in the seamless transition to the actual Snowden appearing from an undisclosed location in Russia in the film’s stirring epilogue. Overall, I found the film to effectively present an intriguing intricate web of international espionage and the ethical implications of far-reaching surveillance. Unlike some of his other movies laden with conspiracy theories, Oliver Stone is on the side of proven facts, for the most part, and simply interprets the information in his uniquely creative way. 

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