Snowden Review

The Plot

The NSA’s illegal surveillance techniques are leaked to the public by one of the agency’s employees, Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), in the form of thousands of classified documents distributed to the press.

The Good

Director Oliver Stone brings the story of Edward Snowden to life in this dramatic retelling of actual events. Set between 2004 and 2013, Snowden goes through its titular subjects career from his early days as a patriotic army cadet, through to his work with the NSA and ultimately his whistle blowing which made him a household name around the world. At 2 hours and 14 minutes, Snowden surprisingly feels much shorter. This is thanks mainly to the screenplay, co-written by Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald (The Homesman) which manages to balance the importance of the story with the personal side of Snowden while explaining technical jargon with ease.

Meanwhile, Gordon-Levitt embodies the character perfectly in both looks and emotion. As we see Snowden become increasingly paranoid about the morality behind the going-ons at the NSA, Gordon-Levitt manages to bring a thoroughly believable piece of acting across all boards.

Co-starring with Gordon-Levitt as the journalists and documentary maker respectively, are Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson and Melissa Leo who manage to bring as much as their characters can to the film. Nicholas Cage and Rhys Ifans also join as the faces of the NSA, the former a bitter man who gives the alternative viewpoint for how Snowden’s life could have turned, and perhaps Cages best performance in recent years simply due to the fact that he doesn’t have enough screentime to really screw it up. Ifans conversely plays the scenery chewing high-level intelligence operative Corbin O’Brian who serves his role as shady paranoia building character effortlessly.

However, with the film obviously revolving around Snowden himself, the real standout co-star is Shailene Woodley as Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay Mills. Woodley proves herself yet again to be an actress of particular note no matter what she does (even, Divergent…) and brings some true chemistry alongside Gordon Levitt.

The Bad

Those hoping to find a deeper more thought provoking storyline may feel a tad sidelined with this biopic which, as its title suggests, leans much more heavily upon Snowden himself than the real issues at hand. While Fitzgerald and Stone’s script does indeed manage to balance the two it is perhaps inevitable that it feels like a documentary, like 2014’s Citezenfour would perhaps offer more in the truth and technicalities of the hacking scandal which Snowden does of course still delve into, albeit in a much more popcorn friendly scene involving a Rubik’s cube.

The Ugly Truth

Oliver Stone presents a technically faultless biopic which explores the character of Snowden while also managing to explain the importance of the events surrounding him with ease. Those looking for more information would best be suited for Citezenfour.

Review by Johnny Ellis

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