The National Security Agency (NSA) was hit with another headache when “Snowden” hit theatres on Sept. 16. The film is a provocative Oliver Stone direction focusing on the psychological, moral trauma of former NSA contractee Edward Snowden, who disclosed thousands of classified government documents to the populace.
Separating itself from past iterations of the cyberhacker’s escapades, Stone’s take on the material moves away from political and technical attention and instead chronicles Snowden’s discomfort with government exploits in the NSA, the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and his relations with the FISA court (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act).
The narrative, however, doesn’t illustrate the most important points of his internal conflict with this information, opting to spend precious time showing Snowden’s attempt at entering the Army Reserve rather than more engaging aspects of his life, like his partnership with Dell.
Above all, the greatest letdown of “Snowden” is the one-dimensional interplay he has with those around him, especially between himself and his girlfriend Lindsay (Shailene Woodley). Their romance serves only as a set piece to, once again, display Snowden in the image of a “hero” challenging an “evil” government agency for the sake of the people’s rights.
His work with other CIA missions, including network security in Geneva, Switzerland, shows a truthful but exaggerated moment where a CIA operative (Timothy Olyphant) persuades a drunk Swiss banker to drive home, using that as bait to make him an informant. He quickly laughs it off to Snowden, almost as if it’s “just another day on the job.”
These dialogues at the forefront dismiss much of the movie’s credibility, generating a cliché, predictable sequence of events that comes off as another propaganda piece in support of Snowden’s cause.
The film somewhat compensates for these shortcomings with its choices of directing and screenplay. Stone has a keen eye for visual aesthetic, which is used to its fullest potential in how he demonstrates Snowden’s thoughts.
“Snowden” boasts a huge cast of well-known actors/actresses that all put in a solid performance. Joseph Gordon-Levitt steals the show as Snowden, breaking from his comfort zone with a deeper voice and ingenious persona; his performance was so similar to the real Edward Snowden that their voices are interchangeable.
“Snowden” is not designed for people who are already knowledgeable of the source material, but rather for those who are uncomfortable researching this topic. “Snowden” overall is a well-paced, albeit flawed, biography that should be watched by anyone looking to get caught up on his current struggles.