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Review - Snowden

By midlandsmovies, Dec 4 2016 09:19PM

Snowden (2016) Dir. Oliver Stone

Based on the books The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena, director Oliver Stone turns his critical eye to Edward Snowden and the leaking of NSA files which uncovered American government surveillance on an unprecedented scale. Stone, who previous work includes JFK, Wall Street and Platoon, continues his analysis of the shady workings of US government.

Combining the conspiratorial, military and money men, Stone has all his favourite ingredients at his disposal in this topical tale. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a great Snowden being both brilliantly intelligent yet sceptical of the secret world he excels in. The film is framed around a flashback as we see Snowden meet Guardian and Wall Street journalists in a hotel room to provide them with the evidence he’s already taken which demonstrates government interference into ordinary Americans’ lives.

Excelling in cyber warfare, his technical life takes a toll on his personal life with his girlfriend Lindsay Mills (played by an always watchable Shailene Woodley) and the story culminates in Snowden stealing data from the government and going on the run. Finally with the papers publishing the revelations, Snowden gets stuck in Russia after his passport is revoked and Stone ends his feature with a coda of comments from the real Snowden himself.

Stone shows us a personal journey of discovery – Snowden uncovers his own morals alongside the uncovering of wrongdoing – whilst Gordon-Levitt’s part-impersonation is a spot on turn from the experienced actor. The film is well-paced with Stone delivering the difficult technical aspects in a simplistic yet understandable way alongside the moral ambiguities he lets play out in dialogue heavy but dramatic scenes.

Is it a balanced portrait of the arguments? Certainly not and Stone wouldn’t have it any other way. With the infringement of rights during the George W Bush presidency (who Stone had already taken to task in W.) Stone is overtly critical of all government agencies as he spins out his favourite conspiracy themes and attempts to influence audiences to his way of thinking.

A solid tale of murky government practices, this film is Stone’s bread and butter and his examination of control, civil rights and espionage are a suitably appropriate topic with Stone portraying Snowden as a small-time hero getting “one over” on the Government. Political and pertinent, Snowden is far from perfect and Stone jettisons any argument from the other side but viewers would probably know this beforehand. Therefore, Snowden is an important subject, albeit not a massively important film from the director who values democracy against unchecked authority.


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