Review for Snowden
Edward Snowden is a very polarising figure. If you are a believer of freedom of speech and freedom of privacy then he is a hero. If you are a believer that your country and its secrets should be kept secret and betraying this could be treason then he is a traitor. Oliver Stone's dramatisation of Edward Snowden's life is a very straight look at the man from his time in the army which was cut short due to a broken leg and lead him to working for the CIA where he proved to be adept at computers.
This lead to him being involved in a team who break or bend the Fourth Amendment to allow them to spy on anyone. During this time we see the relationship he forms with Lindsay who is an avid liberal and someone he cannot talk to about his work due to the secrecy involved which tears them apart... but also brings them together. This leads to Snowden taking the decision to blow the whole system away with a controversial and illegal disclosure of this top secret information which sees him hunted by the US Government.
If you have seen Laura Poitras' Oscar-winning Documentary Citizenfour you may wonder what the point of this film is? I spent much of this film thinking this. I understand that it could be regarded as a pivotal moment in recent history and that the controversy surrounding Snowden makes him possibly an interesting character...
This really does not translate to an entertaining film.
I found myself very restless watching this film and though Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a fantastic job portraying Snowden, even down to his voice it does not make for an interesting character. Many of the issues is that this is just a too complex subject to distill down. I found myself confused by what was going on and did not know who to pull for. At times it is quite clear that what Snowden is doing is wrong, invasion of privacy, but it is (in some ways) for the good of the country. It is a very grey area and one that I never know what side I am on. Is it right that the US can tap a phone if it means they capture someone who could pull off the next 9/11 attack? Who is it to
say what is right and wrong.
My main issue with the film is that very little happens. It just feels like every few scenes, Snowden changes positions, breaks up and makes up with Lindsay played by Shailene Woodley and then has a chat with his mentor Corbin played by the wonderful Rhys Ifans. I was more interested in the interview he was giving to Laura Poitras played by Melissa Leo.
However, again as I have already seen Citizenfour I find myself thinking this was an unnecessary film for Oliver Stone to make. This is a shame as he is a Director who I have enjoyed in the past and when he gets on the bandwagon a cause (as we saw with JFK) he is the best person to analyse this. It is just a case that the real story is sadly far more interesting. Even at the end when the real Snowden shows up in a cameo I found myself rolling my eyes and the contrived nature of it. It ultimately leads to a rather dull and unentertaining experience.