Snowden – review

Snowden, directed by Oliver Stone is a biographical drama based on the real life of former CIA analyst Edward Snowden who turned whistleblower in 2013 on the NSA and their surveillance programs in 2013, the film stars Joseph Gordon Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo, Robert Firth.

Biographical dramas can easily be hit or miss, depending on how interesting a persons’ life is, how much you as the viewer engage with their story or not and they can be risky stories to tell in terms of potential return on investment, Edward Snowden however certainly doesn’t have a dull background and the way he came into the CIA and the things he came across are certainly pretty interesting. The drama is a pretty standard fare in the way a biography is told, though it takes place in 2 parts, in the present with Snowden and some journalists in a hotel ready to leak his exposé of the NSA and flashbacks to Snowdens’ relationship and some of the inner workings of the CIA/NSA as Snowden worked on certain projects over the years.  Though we don’t necessarily get a huge insight on how Snowden necessarily felt about his work at the time, as the film showed him internalizing his thoughts mostly before he exposed the NSA, the man obviously couldn’t go shouting from the rooftops about what he knew but I was curious to see more of what he thought. That being said, seeing how some of the projects worked made for some fairly shocking revelations.

Though for me, what makes the story compelling is that it’s all real, these events actually happened and we’re all more or less aware of prism and the NSA and the film works through dramatic scenes to emphasise Snowdens’ internal struggle in being uncomfortable with the work he did, while wanting to do the morally ‘right’ thing, knowing he’d essentially be a fugitive in the USA and chased by the FBI and other authorities. In terms of casting, there are some good choices, Joseph Gordon Levitt does a pretty great job, matching the cadence and persona of Snowden himself, barely breaking his specific accent through the whole film, meanwhile his girlfriend Lindsay Mills played by Shailene Woodley is also pretty good, being a believably liberal thinking mind, making for an initially conservative Snowden (when they first meet). The supporting cast don’t do a whole lot though as we mainly focus on Snowden and Lindsay, though Glen Greenwald – played by Zachary Quinto gets to be in a fair number of scenes.

It’s interesting to see Snowden grow and change over the years as well, a brilliant mind growing up as a conservative thinker ironically and if you’re interested in the man himself, learning more about him might be right up your alley and in terms of negatives, the plot you could say – has a political slant, painting Snowden and what he did in a pretty clearly positive light I feel but I don’t necessarily have a problem with it, though if you feel that biographical dramas should be neutral, you may take issue with it. Overall Snowden is an interesting drama, bringing a new side to the real man that we all sort of vaguely know of and showing us a bit of how he came to the point he’s at now, it’s not a story everyone will care for but I think it’s an important that this story was told and it’s ever relevant in the modern era.


. Has some good performances, Gordon Levitt is great in it

. Plot itself is pretty engaging, though we know the outcome already

. Possibly a bit biased in favour of Snowden


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