|SNOWDEN (director/writer: Oliver Stone; screenwriter: Kieran Fitzgerald/books by Luke Harding & Anatoly Kucherena; cinematographer: Anthony Dod Mantle; editors: Alex Marquez, Lee Percy; music: Craig Armstrong, Adam Peters; cast: Melissa Leo (Laura Poitras), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Edward Snowden), Shailene Woodley (Lindsay Mills), Tom Wilkinson (Ewen MacAskill), Zachary Quinto (Glenn Greenwald), Ben Schnetzer (Gabriel), Josely Richardson (Janine Gibson), Nicolas Cage (Hank Forrester), Rhys Ifans (Corbin O'Brian), Timothy Olyphant (CIA Agent Geneva ), Jaymes Butler (Drill Sgt.); Runtime: 134; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Max Arvelaiz, Michael Bassick, Douglas Hansen, José Ibáñez, Peter Lawson, Serge Lobo, Bahman Naraghi, Tom Ortenberg, James Stern, Christopher Woodrow; Open Road Films; 2016-Germany/France/USA)|
take on his virtuous but bland subject is to
idolize him without any critique."
by Dennis Schwartz
High school dropout Snowden joins the Army but finds his legs too brittle for special ops training in Fort Benning. When discharged the conservative brainy nerd lands a terrific job with the CIA as a analyst and is mentored by the serpentine Corbin O'Brian (Rhys Ifans). He meets through an Internet dating service called Geek Mate the liberal sweet-natured Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley), and she offers him her support and at times her frustration at his secretive ways. On his job site, he befriends his soul mate spyware developer (Nicolas Cage), whose career is stifled by not playing the right political games.
Stone's film is framed around the then-29-year-old Snowden holed up in a Hong Kong hotel room for eight days in June of 2013, and him looking back to tell us his tale. He's with documentary filmmaker Linda Poitras (Melissa Leo) and The Guardian journalists Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson). Snowden releases to them on a data card the many documents he gathered on the government's secret operations at the risk of being charged with espionage. When this gets printed in the Guardian and picked up later by CNN, Snowden goes on the run in Hong Kong until he soon gets a flight out of Hong Kong and is given exile status by Putin.
After showing him on the job in locations as diverse as 'The Hill' in Virginia, Geneva, London, Japan and Oahu, Stone narrows things down to one major unsettling problem for the techie maven, Is the U.S. doing right in spying on its own citizens in the name of national security? Other things are broached but never pursued.
Stone's take on his virtuous but bland subject is to idolize him without any critique. What's missing is fire in his belly for going beyond Snowden's adventures to examine in more detail what dangers face America from within and what such spying means to its democracy. It could have been a more adventurous film study if it took more chances and dug deeper than the surface. When you compare this film with Laura Poitras’s Oscar-winning 2014 Snowden documentary “Citizenfour”, it seems like a necessary film for its time but one that's less impressive.
REVIEWED ON 9/16/2016 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ