By Nathan Keil | Sports Writer
Have you ever wondered it would be like if you knew the government was watching you? If you knew that they had access to all of your private emails and messages without your consent? What if you were the one working for intelligence agencies who were participating in illegal monitoring? These are the questions that are at the forefront of three-time Academy Award Winner Oliver Stone‘s new film, “Snowden.”
The film chronicles the nine year period from 2004-2013 of former NSA and CIA intelligence employee Edward Snowden, portrayed in the film by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The film showcases Snowden’s experience working for the United States’ elite intelligence agencies leading up to his exchange of classified government breaches and information to journalists from the Guardian in June 2013.
This is not the first attempt to shed light and truth to the intelligence work done by Edward Snowden. Citizenfour, a 2014 documentary shot by Laura Poitras focuses on the meetings between herself and Snowden in Hong Kong. Stone’s film, on the other hand, places emphasis on the bulk of Snowden’s narrative, sandwiched between these meetings in China.
From the outset of the film, Gordon-Levitt’s commitment to the role is palpable. It is visible in his mannerisms to mimicking Snowden’s voice and tone, even at the expense of sometimes sounding silly during the intense moments of the film. In fact, in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Gordon-Levitt admitted that he ripped the audio off of the documentary Citizenfour, and played it on his headphones on repeat. Stone also took the actor to Moscow to sit down with Snowden to get a true feeling of him as a person.
The film does an effective job portraying the humanity of Snowden, from his relationship with Lindsay Mills, portrayed by Shailene Woodley in the film, to the anxiety that came with being responsible for knowing about the illegal breaches of security that were happening in the US government.
The film, although successful in drawing out these questions of privacy and security in our own lives, the plot at times felt forced and prolonged at the end. The film goes to great lengths to paint the picture of Snowden’s experience working for the NSA and CIA, shooting on location in Hong Kong, Hawaii, and Washington D.C. Despite the high level of dramatic effect in the film, including the more intense scene, involving a Rubik’s Cube, the score by Craig Armstrong felt distant and often unnoticeable.
Snowden is far from being a flawless film, but it is certainly worth seeing. Oliver Stone’s vision, and the commitment from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley are on full display throughout the entirety of the film. Rhys Ifans and Nicolas Cage give noteworthy supporting performances as well. It can be difficult to understand at times because of the governmental and technological jargon, but is still presented with conviction from the ensemble cast. It may not be Stone’s magnum opus, but it is one that he should proudly talk about for years to come.
Overall, Snowden prompts important discussions about our views of the internet, democracy, and national security and does so in entertaining fashion. Whether Edward Snowden is a patriot, traitor, whistleblower, or hero, the choice is yours.
The film opened in theaters on September 16 and is currently showing at the AMC Starplex Galaxy 16 and the Regal Jewel Stadium 16 in Waco.