| The NSA’s illegal surveillance techniques are leaked to the public by one of the agency’s employees, Edward Snowden, in the form of thousands of classified documents distributed to the press.
Edward Snowden is one of the most fascinating Americans alive, so it’s no wonder his life has been made into a movie. After the documentary ‘Citizenfour’, it’s already the second film featuring the famous whistle-blower. ‘Citizenfour’ focused on the days Snowden spent in a hotel room in Hong Kong, where he invited two journalists who published the news about the massive surveillance of millions of people. Oliver Stone’s new film takes a different approach and shows us Snowden’s back story.
Stone and his co-writer Kieran Fitzgerald did not carefully contract and craft the personal dialog as well as they did the info tech and military dialog. In many ways, the forced personal story of the relationship between Snowden and Mills comes off as a forced element from producers to make the film more relatable to those who are not as interested in the military side of the story and more interested in the outside/personal influences that affected Snowden’s actions.
“Terrorism is just an excuse.”
Snowden is by no means a bad film, but I just couldn’t help but feel that it should have been better. This is a film about one of the most important government leaks of all time, but the film almost feels as if it’s trying to play it all down. I think it’s the pacing and the similarity between a lot of the scenes in the film that make it drag a little, when it would have worked so much better as a fast-paced drama filled with urgency. The film works best when we see Snowden and the three journalists holed-up inside a Hong Kong hotel room discussing how they can get the story out before they’re found by the American government, but we don’t get enough of that.
Gordon-Levitt does an absolutely amazing portrayal of Snowden. Not only does his look change, Gordon-Levitt as an actor vanishes as the movie goes on, but the way in which he trained himself to imitate Snowden’s speech is incredible. While it isn’t exactly 100% the same, it is quite close. Shailene Woodley largely succeeds in thanklessly rummaging what little she could of a psychology-free character i.e. Snowden’s longtime paramour Lindsay Mills. Frankly playing the sidelined girlfriend is beneath her abilities. Quinto as Greenwald does well as does Melissa Leo as filmmaker Laura Poitras and Wilkinson as McAskill, but they all lack screen time.
Snowden is an average biopic that manages to display some fine performances by a likable cast and some moments of interest and substance surrounding it’s controversial figure. Sadly, the film never rises to potential, nor does it make for a memorable portrait of the titular figure.
‘Snowden’ gets a 6.6/10.
Shot on 35's rating sheet: 9.5 – 10.0: Excellent! 8.5 – 9.5: Fantastic, but with minor flaws 7.5 – 8.5: Great, but with issues 6.5 – 7.5: Okay, but with major issues 5.5 – 6.5: Had potential, but falls flat hard. 4.5 – 5.5: Disaster!