Oliver Stone has made a number of biographical dramas over the years, bringing us films such as The Doors, Nixon and W., as well as dramas based on events in American history such as JFK and World Trade Centre. With Snowden, Stone tells the story of one of the biggest National Security leaks in American history.
Stone’s film chronicles the life of Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), from when he joined the CIA in 2004 up until 2013, when he leaked classified information regarding the illegal surveillance of American citizens to journalists working for The Guardian newspaper.
Snowden struggles with the morality of techniques he’s asked to deploy while working for both the CIA and NSA, while also struggling to juggle those pressures with maintaining a stable relationship with Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley).
Snowden is by no means a bad film but I just couldn’t help but feel that it should have been better. This is a film about one of the most important government leaks of all time but the film almost feels as if it’s trying to play it all down.
I think it’s the pacing and the similarity between a lot of the scenes in the film that make it drag a little when it would have worked so much better as a fast-paced drama filled with urgency. The film works best when we see Snowden and the three journalists holed-up inside a Hong Kong hotel room discussing how they can get the story out before they’re found by the American government, but we don’t get enough of that.
Coming to the performances, Snowden possesses a very good lead in Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He’s one of my favourite actors and it’s so good to see him to continue to work with some of the biggest directors. Shailene Woodley heads the supporting cast as Snowden’s love interest Lindsay and she does a fine job but my favourite supporting cast member was Zachary Quinto as Glenn Greenwald, one of the journalists Snowden meets with, which is probably why I wanted there to be more scenes in that hotel room.
One of the worst decisions made by Oliver Stone was to have Edward Snowden himself appear in the film right at the very end. Sure, have photos and clips of him during the end credits but when Gordon-Levitt has played the man for 99% of the film, it just took me out of the film a fair bit. It didn’t really fit for me.
Snowden rather feels like a bit of a missed opportunity when I think about it. It just felt all too Hollywood.
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