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Snowden: US History’s Most Famous Wihstleblower Gets the Oliver Stone Treatment

  • Joseph Gordon-LevittMelissa Leo...
  • Action & AdventureDrama...
  • Oliver Stone
reviewed by
Marija Loncarevic
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Snowden: US History’s Most Famous Wihstleblower Gets the Oliver Stone Treatment

The latest thriller from Oscar-winning director, Oliver Stone, finds one of the most polarising filmmakers working today bringing his own voice to the story behind one of the most famous whistleblowers in U.S history, Edward Snowden. Written by Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald, Snowden – riding on the wave of the 2014 Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour- makes for an interesting and a relatively engrossing film despite feeling a little too safe at times.

The story is centred on Edward Snowden (Gordon-Levitt); an employee of the CIA and NSA who, back in 2013, copied and leaked classified documents about NSA’s questionable surveillance activities to the press. Before his employment at the agency, Edward was hoping to serve in the military’s Special Forces, but, after breaking both legs in a training accident, he was soon deemed as unfit for action. 

Determined to find another way to serve his country, Snowden – after successfully demonstrating his impressive computer skills – soon lands a job working for the CIA and quickly rises through the ranks, earning top positions along the way. Things soon take a turn when Snowden comes to a horrifying realisation that the country’s anti-terrorism tactics are rather questionable, learning that the NSA is spying on everything and everyone. Unable to sit back and watch it happen, Snowden decides to take the risk and expose the truth, organising a secret meeting with a group of journalists who will be able to tell his story to the world.

The story starts at the very end in 2013 with Snowden already held up in the Hong Kong hotel room, waiting to speak to documentarian Laura Poitras (Leo) and journalists Glenn Greenwald (Quinto) and Ewan MacAskill (Wilkinson), before taking the standard flashback-route to the past with the intention of establishing Snowden’s personality to the screen.

Giving us a glimpse of his time in the military before cutting to the string of grilling psychological assessments conducted by the CIA, the first act of the movie is relatively straightforward, if too simple and uncomplicated for the likes of someone like Stone. Nevertheless, Stone’s slightly conventional dialogue-heavy approach to the story works with Gordon-Levitt’s superbly committed performance; the actor manages to nail Snowden’s tone of voice and purposeful way of speaking like a pro, while the other characters, including Shailene Woodley as Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, are all solid.

Without going too deep beneath the skin of the hypocrisy involved, Stone does a wonderful job of bringing the audiences closer to the man who risked it all to expose the truth. Intense and suspenseful, it may not be one of his best but, Snowden proves to be one of Stone’s most quietly powerful and important films of the year. 

Like This? Try

Citizenfour (2014), The Fifth Estate (2013), Enemy of the State (1998)

360 Tip

To make sure the screenplay wasn't leaked, Oliver Stone wrote the script on a single computer with no Internet connection.

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