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By Richard von Busack September 21, 2016
Oliver Stone's over-emphatic style can be alienating, particularly when he's over-explaining things that don't need explaining, while glossing over the more interesting details. Whether it was fair or not, W. had juice. Snowden is more of a generic hero's struggle that ends upbeat, with the title whistleblower (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) receiving hugs and applause.
Edward Snowden was an employee of the CIA and the NSA (one good anti-joke here: it stands for "No Such Agency"). At these organizations, and later as a private contractor serving them, Snowden discovered that the government's data collection program was far more universal than the Obama administration claimed. Snowden finally went public with documents explaining how the massive surveillance program worked, with the help of selected journalists Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo), Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and the Guardian's Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson), to whom Snowden gave a long briefing session in a Hong Kong hotel room.
In flashback, we follow Snowden as a young man. He was a high school dropout who fancied Star Wars, Joseph Campbell and Ayn Rand. Snowden tried to train for the Special Forces but broke his leg in boot camp. "There are other ways to serve your country," a doctor tells him, and with that Snowden goes to Langley.
Meanwhile, he meets Lindsay (Shailene Woodley) a left-winger who is against the Iraq War. The deep feelings people had for or against that war are reduced to the minor complications in a rom-com; when he kisses this free-spirited girl, Snowden jokes about the taste of liberalness on her lips. Over the course of assignments in posts as far apart as Geneva, Tokyo and Hawaii, Snowden absorbs a punishing workload, which batters his relationship. Snowden may be most interesting when it demonstrates how cyber-workaholism can make even Oahu seem like purgatory.
Lindsay is on the edge of manic pixiedom (on a first date, she makes Snowden pose for wacky photographs); she also teaches a stripper-pole dancing class that gives Snowden a flash of skin. Woodley is glammed up for the role and hard-muscled. She's forcing herself to fit this part. Lindsay never wants to let Snowden go. You've rarely seen so much clinging in a movie.
In a small part as Forester, an in-house whistleblower who damaged his own CIA career, Nicolas Cage seems to match Stone's thunderous intentions as a director. It's a pleasure to watch Cage give meaning to every line. When he makes his murmur of welcome to Snowden, the new man on the CIA campus—"You've come to the right little whorehouse"—we see the kind of juice and salt Snowden could have had.
Stone has a talented, highly abstract cinematographer in Anthony Dod Mantle—a collaborator with Danny Boyle and Lars Von Trier. Mantle brings out the hot scribbles of color in the Hong Kong skyline, the cold glow of blue-white glass booths that the analysts inhabit when they're gathering data. Thousands of glowing electronic filaments, in an animation of the world wide web, resolve themselves into a shape, becoming the iris of a massive eye. When Snowden finally comes out into daylight, he becomes a black silhouette on a white-out screen, which dwindles into nothingness.
Gordon-Levitt is juxtaposed against taller actors so that we'll always feel protective of our driven young hero. One inspired moment has Snowden ambushed by a cinema-screen sized Skyping—we weren't aware that there was such a big screen in the room. It's a call from Snowden's saturnine boss and mentor Corbin (Rhys Ifans). The mammoth talking head looms, dwarfing Snowden. Corbin tries to make a deep intrusion into Snowden's personal life look like a favor that the older man is doing to calm a troubled employee's mind. The scene is unbelievable, but it has style.
Stone explains Snowden with ease: he turned whistleblower because The Man went after the woman he loved. The problem, as in Citizenfour, is that Snowden is telling a story that isn't finished yet. While Snowden likely deserves to be pardoned, there's a certain fishiness to his story—some part of it we haven't got yet. And you'd have to be less credulous than Oliver Stone to discern that lack.
By Reno January 29, 2017
**He who became a people's hero by betraying his own nation!**
I had like to begin by saying I'm not an American and I haven't seen the Oscar winning documentary 'Citizenfour'. But I'm very much aware of everything about it through the all kinds of coverages. So my perspective about the film will be true and about the content will be neutral. I have known about what this film dealt since the day it all began. I did not care much, but there are things to concern about it. Like if it is necessary to tap to prevent the serious threats, there's nothing wrong it that. Because, even if they have our private contents, they are not going to publish it or make money out of it. So that makes what Ed did was unethical and betrayal for his own country.
In another angle, NSA's illegal surveillance questionable in many ways, but wrong is only a tiny thing. Because eyeing every single one of us seems wrong, though without examining all, nothing confirms, differentiate between right and wrong. So coming to the film, it was decently made one. The main reason is it was too long and many parts were boring. The theme was powerful like it was a one liner, but the film contents were very weak. Except Snowden passing the security, the rest of the story like why he did, including his personal life, particularly his romance was not good enough to make a film. This is very much suitable for a documentary than a feature film.
But I liked the actors. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was good, but not great. If he gets the Oscars nod, that's only because of the issue which the film inspired by, not because his phenomenal character display. The direction was decent, but not the screenplay. The film is not for everyone, but I recommend it to all as a must see. The main reason why you should watch it is to educate yourself. To learn what they are doing and how. Particularly, you will definitely come to know how to avoid being eyed by the government in a simple way. So that's a good thing than whining over what homeland security does to protect the nation. It is not an inspiring biopic, or a masterpiece, but don't miss it for any cost.
P.S. Whatever the form of the governments, the nations won't stop doing what in this film they said was wrong. Because there's no Edward Snowden in every nation to expose it. In that perspective, the US was really embarrassed for their own man letting them down. The China is the number one in this kind of activity. The point is, these things happening right now or not, but should never come to public notice like that happened in here, never should leave the compound. Suppose if we come to know, we will protect, at least in the democratic countries that's what we do. But not to forget it also safeguards us. That means it is like the stars and planets on the sky that we watch and take notes, but they are untouchable. We only monitor them for threats like asteroids and fractionally thinking about the alien invasion.
By David Perkins January 29, 2017
JGL plays a pretty convincing Snowden or at least I think he does as I've only seen the real Snowden in video and Citizenfour. I don't know exactly how correct the movie is to the actual story but as most of these things go, the movie will have been created with a slightly exaggerated storyline and version of events.
An enjoyable watch and a big tick for me was that the coding and terminology used in the movie were relatively correct and true to real life!
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