REVIEW: Snowden

Review by Dustin Heller

Snowden is the new biographical film about the life of Edward Snowden, the controversial figure responsible for leaking top-secret classified government information to the press in 2013.  The film is based on the books The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena.  The director of the film is Oliver Stone who is quite controversial in his own right with films such as JFK, Nixon, and W. just to name a few.  As you can tell, many of his films are centered around controversial American political issues and Snowden is no exception.

The part of Edward Snowden is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt with support coming from Shailene WoodleyMelissa LeoZachary QuintoTom WilkinsonScott EastwoodRhys Ifans and Nicolas CageSnowden is rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity.

The film begins in the hotel room where Edward Snowden first meets the reporters that he’s chosen to tell his story and get this top secret information out to the public.  From here, the story jumps back and forth on different timelines in Snowden’s life and career.  It chronicles his time in the military all the way through his varying jobs with the CIA and NSA.

The film also dives into his personal life and shows the ups and downs of being in a romantic relationship with someone whose life is top secret and classified to almost everyone.  The climactic ending takes us through the events surrounding the leaking of the information and what has become of Snowden’s life since this infamous day.

Snowden is a well-conceived and superbly executed film that comes across as totally one-sided in regards to the opinion of Edward Snowden.  Even though it is based on a true story, it comes from a point of view that has already been decided for the viewer.  Oliver Stone paints the picture that he wants you to see.

That’s not to say that it’s a bad film, because there are quite a few things to like about it, first and foremost is the performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  For such a controversial role, Gordon-Levitt played the part with such conviction and really nailed it.  The story line is quite complex and gets a little confusing at times with all of the top secret government terminology that is used.

Although the film was quite interesting, it did start to feel really long towards the end and probably would have been better served had it been about 20 minutes shorter.  The final result is a quality movie about an important figure who is still relevant today. Just don’t expect to see both sides of the story.

Grade:  B

Snowden opens in theaters on Friday, September 16