Director: Oliver Stone.
So who is Edward Snowden? So of you may remember major news broadcasts back in June 2013 about a former, American intelligence worker who defected and exposed the US intelligence agency, the NSA, to the press and the world about their methods of gathering illegal intel; which resulted in him being instantly branded a traitor and had espionage charges brought upon. That was my initial thought when I saw him on the news being interviewed from an undisclosed hotel room in Russia. But is he a traitor or hero? A true patriot? Possibly none of these, just someone who was doing a job and was in a position to make a change.
Who better else to write/direct but none other than Oliver Stone, the controversial American filmmaker who has never shied away from depicting stories about his own government which actually does nothing more than raising awareness and questions from those who watch his movies concerning sensitive affairs. What I have always loved about Stone's storytelling, it that he doesn't really take a side or force opinions, and sometimes, like World Trade Center, JFK and his Vietnam trilogy, he tells a story about someone who was there, keeping to the truth as best of possibly but without directly attacking the subject matter or forcing blame or opinions. Snowden himself complimenting Stone saying how accurate the film is.
It doesn't glorify what he did, not at all and instead is documenting a stretched truth. I say stretched because certain characters and elements have been changed for dramatic effect, but let that not subtract anything away from the whole point of what the story is trying to say. It does leave very much open to debate about national security, democracy and privacy, breeding a sense of paranoia across the world, even the screenplay was apparently written on solely one computer that was never connected to the internet.
There has always been conspiracies about big brother always watching, providing a good source of fiction like George Orwell's iconic 1984, Dan Brown's Digital Fortress and films like Conspiracy Theory and Enemy of The State. But this is a documented truth, a leak that made many of those theories reality and a scary one at that.
This film is an amalgamation of the book Time of The Octopus by the Russian attorney handling Snowden's case, Anatoly Kucherena and the 2014 documentary, Citizenfour, which was incidentally directed by the journalist from the movie, Laura Poitras. Following the events and life of Snowden leading up to the incident, giving us his history and character, and quite the insight of what was happening behind closed doors.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Snowden meticulously, looking uncannily like the real Snowden, he received praise from Snowden's parents after they had watched a screening. There's an impressive cast of supporting actors that came as a pleasant surprise, including Timothy Olyphant, Tom Wilkinson, Zachary Quinto and even Nicolas Cage who performed as a favour to Stone.
Rhys Ifans' was incredible, with Shailene Woodley also giving an impressive performance as Snowden's ever supportive girlfriend proving that this is more than just about the whistleblowing. It's a portrayal of a man who was doing a job that he was good at, it's about his life before and during.
I'm assuming each actor must have more than wanted to be in this movie considering it's sensitive subject matter and it shows, in all their performances that everyone was heavily invested in this film enforcing just how important this story is. Gordon-Levitt even pledged his salary to a cause regarding technology and democracy. There's a part of me that thinks, everyone starring in this now has a target on their backs or are now listed on some sort of watchlist.
It's superbly paced and structured in such a way, it keeps you gripped from start to finish. There's a good mixture of digital and visual effects which aren't normally present in Stone's film but this is always his first movie film entirely digitally. Good score from now, usual composer, Craig Armstrong and Adam Peters, accompanied by a mixed soundtrack with tracks from Boy Noize, Bach, Mozart and Peter Gabriel.
Very much like The Big Short and this year's Spotlight, where incredible and shocking truths are exposed, this is educational and everyone needs to see this film. I didn't want to watch anything else for quite awhile after, wanting digest everything I've just seen. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea but it doesn't matter, as long as you understand what happened, this should be more than just a film, it's a wake up call. and
Film aside for a moment, it has to be said, I'm not totally against the gathering of information, especially for those with nothing to hide, however the privacy is an big issue and the fact your own information could well be used against you. You have to ask yourself, given the access, who you have done the same thing? I would like to think it's what I would have done, being morally obligated to tell the unsuspecting world.
Running Time: 9
The Cast: 10
Job Description: 10
The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for being a riveting, thrilling must-see of a true story.
Would I buy the Blu-ray?: Oh yes!