It's telling of something that the most real-seeming and emotionally-affecting moment of "Snowden" comes when Joseph Gordon-Levitt admits to spying on his live-in girlfriend's online dating profile. It's one of the few scenes in which the film's frequently abstracted concepts of state surveillance are brought down to such an interpersonal and relatable level that you might just cringe in recognition.
Citizen Four managed to be way more suspenseful, intimate and engaging than this drab lifeless version which feels without stakes, offbeat (in the wrong ways) and generally like a misfire. For how important the subject matter is, there are strikingly few moments that seem to really do it justice. Hard to find the words of why this was so bad. JGL however did a great job. Probably the best part of the film.
By concentrating on the 'what' and the 'how' and not on the 'why' or the aftermath Stone does disservice to his subject here. What the film lacks is vibrancy becoming as bland as its mountains of code and data. The look of the film suffers the same fate despite the usual reliability of Mantle as d.p. Overall a disappointment that fails to re-establish Stone as a director of consequence.
Another run-of-the-mill thriller with political undertones for some, and a blatant horror story for others, Snowden blurs genre-lines as it creates an effectively compelling story, with an immaculate central performance. JGL kills it here, and the entire film - like Eye in the Sky - furthers how we look at films portraying modern warfare and espionage as a few keystrokes and a whirlwind of unforeseen consequences.
Snowden sets out to prove that a whistleblower never intended to be a hero or a martyr, but simply a victim of circumstance. Snowden is not Stone's most incisive or exciting film, yet reveals itself to be extremely important in the examination of what people should strive for both as individuals and as a society. Most importantly, it will hopefully start an essential (and broader) discussion about privacy.
"The fear that I think I have most in regards to the outcome from America of these disclosures is that nothing will change in the coming months and the
coming years, it'll just get worse. And then eventually at some point some new leader will be elected who flips the switch and the people won't be able to do anything by that point to oppose it and it will be turned to tyranny." A good complement to Citizen Four.
Still important to raise awareness of Snowden's whistleblowing. Trump advocates the death penalty for him. Political tyranny is in overdrive. Calling the powerful to account remains a harrowing necessity.
Stone's dramatist credentials are apt in framing Snowden's plight whilst Levitt, Woodley and the ensemble are convincing. Nuance in each NSA/CIA antagonist may be minimal but Stone's polemicist frame is forgivable.
Oliver Stone really surprised me with this film. I'd say this is a return to form for him, reminiscent of his classic film Born on the Fourth of July, this is a solid film that isn't over exaggerated and presents the facts in perfect Oliver Stone style. JGL is superb as Snowden and the supporting cast is extraordinary too.