Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the ex CIA worker who leaked confidential documents about the mass surveillance operation conducted by US agencies that involved spying on average Americans as well as World leaders. Snowden is a dramatic retelling of the story.
A few months ago the British Government passed a law that instructed internet providers to keep a record of a person’s browsing history for selected agencies (such as the Food Standard Agency for reasons beyond me) to view whenever we’re suspected of something. Basically, the government agencies could deduce that I have small crush on Sara Bareilles because I keep watching her music videos on Youtube. If the internet existed at the time of the Soviet Union, this law would not look out of place being executed by the Kremlin or even the Stasi of East Germany.
All this leads me to Oliver Stone’s paranoid thriller which is reminiscent to his JFK and Nixon days. The power of the technology on show is thought provoking and generally terrifying. With the most advanced technology at their disposable, the NSA, CIA, and FBI could view our own personal email and chat messages. It makes for tense viewing, and you really have to appreciate how much Edward Snowden sacrificed in order to release this highly sensitive and valuable information that showed the NSA saw everyone as a suspect. The film is in its element when it discusses the extent of the top secret agencies snooping. The film discusses CIA programs such as PRISM and does a good job at presenting the viewer with the information that allows them to easily digest the information that shows them the extent of how far this snooping operation went and how it violated every one of our rights to privacy.
The film does present Edward Snowden, perhaps unrealisticly, as this perfect intellectual human being who is able to complete a test that usually requires five hours in just under forty minutes. The film is one that does humanise Edward Snowden, it’s clearly a film that’s on his side, but too make him too seemingly perfect somewhat goes against the bid to humanise him. Another issue of the film is the repetitive nature of his relationship with his girlfriend (played by Shailene Woodley), whilst it is massively integral to the film, as it shows how much he sacrificed, it does begin to get repetitive when you see the couple fight for the third time.
Even though the film presents Snowden as a man who can do no wrong (don’t get me wrong I support what he did) Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance is terrific. Without the need of any dramatic speeches Levitt shows Snowden’s gradual slide from staunch Republican, unwilling to criticise his government, to a man who becomes more horrified with each reveal of the extent of the snooping operation. It’s a performance where his eyes reveal more than his actions. It could garner an Oscar nomination, which would be the film’s only one.
Snowden is a return to the times where Oliver Stone was a director whose films courted a great deal of controversy and aroused discussion for the way they dissected American politics, Snowden has gotten people talking again.