Review: Snowden

By Christian DiMartino

I remember it like it was yesterday. I walk in the house, sit down on the couch, grab the laptop (which I’m currently writing on), and surely enough, placed on the WebCam was a piece of duct tape. Puzzled, I decided to ask my folks what the deal was. As it turns out, my parents had placed the duct tape on there because “the government might be watching.” I laughed and I laughed and I laughed. Even today it’s still kind of funny.

But my laughter has kind of died down after seeing Snowden.

Who better to make a film about Edward Snowden than Oliver Stone? Well actually that’s debatable. Stone is a man who, obviously, shoves his views down our throats. The main thing you must ask yourself is: is Snowden a traitor or a hero? After seeing Snowden, I know which side I’m on. And Stone makes it blatantly obvious which side he’s on, particularly in the last half an hour.

The film follows Snowden, played here to perfection by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who begins as a man who simply wants to serve his country. After breaking his leg from falling out of a bunk (?), he is discharged from the Army. The rest of the film follows his days in the CIA, to his days in the NSA, and then his return to the CIA, and in the meantime, the events that led up to him blowing the whistle on the government’s secrets.

It’s nice to see such familiar faces along the way. Shailene Woodley plays Snowden’s girlfriend, and the early scenes with her don’t work but you warm up to it. Rhys Ifans basically plays his mentor. Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, and Tom Wilkinson play the trio for which he gives his secrets out to. We also have appearances by Nicolas Cage and Timothy Olyphant, both of which mostly just make us say, “Ooh, there they are.”

In ways, the more I think about it, Snowden could possibly serve as a counterpart to Born on the Fourth of July, which I’ve always considered his best work. I say that because of the way that Snowden began as an All-American lad, and then slowly began turning on them. No matter what you think of the man, I feel like the way Stone tries to sell you on him is hard to resist.

This isn’t one of Stone’s best, but it certainly feels like his best in a long while. The editing is a bit too choppy, and the final twenty minutes kind of overstays its welcome, mostly so then they can praise Snowden. But you know, I’ll be damned if the film doesn’t have moments of greatness. It does, really. It’s a film in which some of the most thrilling stuff is subtle.

And let us not forget the great work by Levitt, an actor who still has yet to receive recognition. With a voice that brings Mark Ruffalo to mind, it’s very easy to look past. He transforms into this role. He releases his humanity. Woodley is also solid as his squeeze.

It’s a film that can be a little unsettling, especially since it’s completely true. It shows us the raw side of the world we live in. Hopefully the government won’t have me whacked for writing this positive review.

One response to “Review: Snowden”

  1. Thanks for your viewpoint. Stone has produced a well-made and engaging film that presents Snowden as a principled romantic and modest hero. Sure, it could have used a bit more editing, especially in the romance department. But its a well made and important film.


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