Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and government contractor, leaked classified information about the NSA’s illegal surveillance in 2013. After releasing the information with the help of the UK newspaper The Guardian, Snowden fled. If he had stayed in the United States, he would have been charged under the Espionage Act and would not receive the usual legal treatment. Snowden was attempting to get to Ecuador from Hong Kong when the United States cancelled his passport. Ultimately, he was stuck in Moscow, Russia.
To this day, Snowden is in Russia, living the life of a man without a country.
Three years after Snowden’s whistle blowing, film director Oliver Stone decided to make a biographical drama about his life. Oliver Stone is an Academy Award-winning director of “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July.”
“Snowden” features Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden and Shailene Woodley as Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay Mills.
The 134-minute biopic is a dramatization of Snowden’s life from 2004-13. The film opens in 2013 in Hong Kong, right before the leak. Stone uses flashbacks to weave through the events. Gordon-Levitt embodies the role of Snowden from his fashion to his smallest idiosyncrasies. Gordon-Levitt’s performance alone makes the film worthwhile.
The movie captures events through the point of view of Edward Snowden himself, spending a good amount of time delving into the love story between Snowden and Mills. It sheds light on an aspect of the Snowden story that many never knew. Often times, the media gives only one or two perspectives on an event. Woodley and Levitt deliver a powerful and passionate performance that includes both love and fight scenes.
At times, the movie feels forced and has trouble conveying the technical side of the events. It effectively serves as a quasi-documentary but fails to fall under the thriller category. Stone has had more ambitious and successful movies in his past. He played it safe with “Snowden,” but for the sake of this story, the story alone is enough.
“Snowden” jumps into the mastermind behind the man himself. It shows the transformation of a conservative Snowden to the whistleblowing liberal that is willing to risk his freedom for the freedom of us all.
Casting a strong moral shadow, the movie paints Snowden not as the traitor that he is so commonly referred to as, but rather as a hero that is willing to do what is right no matter the cost.
Feature image courtesy Pixabay user dbreen