Co-writer Stone has drawn the script from two books (Luke Harding’s The Snowden Files and Anatoly Kucherena’s Time Of The Octopus), and he struggles rather in bringing the story compellingly and suspensefully to the screen, as there’s a lack of sensation here and an awful lot of talking in small rooms and offices. And that’s…
Co-writer Stone has drawn the script from two books (Luke Harding’s The Snowden Files and Anatoly Kucherena’s Time Of The Octopus), and he struggles rather in bringing the story compellingly and suspensefully to the screen, as there’s a lack of sensation here and an awful lot of talking in small rooms and offices.
And that’s a problem for this filmmaker, somewhat more comfortable with ‘Nam (Platoon, Born On The Fourth Of July, Heaven & Earth), rock and roll (The Doors), the Kennedy assassination (JFK), serial killers (Natural Born Killers), 9/11 (World Trade Center) and drug-related chainsaw murders (Savages). Snowden (strongly played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who’s perfected the real Edward’s voice) is introduced in a Hong Kong hotel room with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo) and journalists Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Edward MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson).
As his paranoia understandably mounts, he’s interviewed by the group about his life and what brought him to this point, and we flash back and forth as Stone (and co-writer Kieran Fitzgerald) depict the guy as softly-spoken and breath-takingly brilliant, as well as a patriot. And yes, he still is, which is why he did what he did.
After being discharged from the army due to an injury, Edward is seen rising through the ranks at the CIA and impressing both mentor Corbin O’Brian (Rhys Ifans) and famed boffin Hank Forrester (Nicolas Cage overacting a little, as usual). Here begins his realisation that the increasingly sophisticated technology in the hands of the US government was being used (under the guise of security and anti-terrorism measures) to secretly monitor the American public, which stings even more, as he’s the guy who developed some of the computer programs actually utilised, whether they gave him proper credit or not.
When his work as an NSA technologist takes him to Hawaii with long-suffering partner Lindsay Mills (the pole-dancing Shailene Woodley, a long way from the Divergent films), Snowden finally realises that he has to blow the whistle, regardless of the consequences. And they are grave indeed because, as a supposed traitor (like the less user-friendly Julian Assange), he could be executed after only the most basic of trials. And yes, he still loves America.
Long and somewhat uncinematic at times, Stone’s epic nevertheless succeeds in raising many disturbing questions, especially in a country where the government (who aren’t spying on you, of course, come on!) is fighting endlessly to introduce new and harsh laws to prosecute whistleblowers. Hell, they’re probably reading this very article. And watching you reading it. And… And see you in Moscow!
3 stars Snowden (M) is in cinemas now.