Snowden :: A Great, Great Story Told Reasonably Well…

Cineville - Snowden

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is excellent and wholly convincing as Edward Snowden, the humble hero who sacrificed his freedom so that we might all know just how little privacy, or if you like, freedom, we actually have.

The strengths of the film lie mostly in the fact that it's such an amazing story - one of the greatest and most important of the digital age, I believe - and frankly, it would have been difficult to make a dull film of such an extraordinary life. As it happens, the story is told with skill and surprising restraint, considering it's Oliver Stone that's telling it.

This is good because it needs no histrionics. There's probably an argument in fact, to suggest that the story is told so well in Citizenfour that maybe this film didn't have to be made at all. But then, nobody saw Citizenfour. Also, the dramatisation of Snowden's background fleshes out the story pretty well. There was a lot in this movie I didn't know at all, and I was pleased to find out.

I didn't know, for example, although it makes perfect sense, that Snowden had started out as a rather naïve, buttoned-down Conservative computer-genius who genuinely believed in the prevailing goodness of the government. It was interesting within that context to watch his "inner Liberal grow", as his long-term girlfriend Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley) puts it in the film.

Cineville - Snowden


Oh, I also hadn't heard America's future president suggesting that Snowden be executed. That was another particular nugget of joy for me.

It's a little heavy on cliché from time to time - the army training, the love interest story arc, the prodigious talent outstripping the expectations of his supposed superiors like so many real-life movie heroes before him (Hawking and Turing most recently), and it also feels a bit filmy in patches, usually patches populated by Nicolas Cage or Rhys Ifans. (By filmy, I think I probably mean unconvincing.)

Rhys Ifans as O'Brian is, according to Michael Phillips in The Chicago Tribune, 'the best performance'. According to Benjamin Lee in The Guardian on the other hand, it is a 'staggeringly bad performance' that is also 'a bizarrely hammy and entirely, hilariously misjudged career lowpoint for the actor'. Opinions, eh?

I really enjoyed revisiting the story though, despite it depressing the hell out of me and forcing me to put a sticking plaster over my webcam.


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Cineville - Snowden


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The Viewing

I nearly didn't make it to this showing because my phone ran out of charge and I didn't know where I was. I think there might be a minor irony in this fact, but so minor as to be wholly irrelevant.

By the way, 'There are more reasons than ever to understand how to protect your personal information.'

Think on.

About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you’ll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven’t already.

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