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Joseph Gordon –Levitt leads an impressive ensemble cast in this politically charged thriller by Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone. Chronicling the incredible true personal story of the world’s most infamous whistleblower, SNOWDEN is an intelligent and thought-provoking film that whilst delivering the goods as easy going entertainment gifted with rich dialogue, great performances and excellent writing will also leave you shocked as we get a closer look at what exactly went down behind closed doors within the American intelligence community, exposing the truth like never been seen before.
Based in part upon Luke Harding’s The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted, Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena and even taking inspiration from the 2014 documentary Citizenfour, this is the story of Edward Snowden (Gordon –Levitt), mild-mannered American computer professional who in June 2013, copied and leaked classified top secret information in the form of thousands of documents from the NSA (National Security Agency) to several journalists of The Guardian and Washington Post.
Following him from his early days and brief stint as Special Forces candidate within the United States Army Reserve to working his way up the NSA ladder and becoming one of America’s most vital security programmers in the process, the bigger picture is illuminated as distressing secrets and illegal activity within the United States government is discovered. Questioning whether to be loyal to his country or loyal to its citizens, Edward Snowden is given a tough choice to make as the strains of trying to maintain a relationship with long term partner Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley) add to the stress of eye-opening events that unfold. With anticipation for his eventual reveal high, the well-directed thrills play out with intense tension as revelations regarding global surveillance programs are discovered.
Going two for two, portraying another extraordinary real life person after last year’s The Walk, Gordon-Levitt shows us why he’s one of this century’s greatest actors, truly killing it as our titular controversial character. Resembling Snowden to the point of near identicalness going so far as to match his voice expertly, he plays the role of normal person who just so happens to have an abnormal life very well, pairing exceptionally fine with Woodley as partner/lover Lindsay, the two not only doing justice to their real life counterparts but also displaying such affable chemistry unseen between two romantic leads in sometime. Bouncing off one another, grounding the picture as it should be in reality, Gordon-Levitt and Woodley do their job so well you almost forget how many big names are also involved.
From Tom Wilkinson, Zachary Quinto and Melissa Leo as instrumental (and real named) Guardian reporters Ewen MacAskill, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, to Timothy Olyphant’s CIA Agent and Rhys Ifans as corrupt agency recruiter, time was also found for Nicolas Cage to make a comeback to non straight-to-DVD movies in his small yet vital role as makeshift mentor, Hank Forrester. Changing names where they have to and dramatizing certain scenes for the sake of making a film, the supporting characters we meet are all touched by the hand of great performances and all serve as an important piece in the overall jigsaw that makes up Snowden’s life.
Clocking in at just over two hours and twenty minutes, there’s a lot to tell but the pacing is admittedly a bit slow. Somewhat uneven with the way the film flows structurally, the beautiful crisp nature of the cinematography and the way the filming was achieved help make up for any flaws. Being able to turn political nonsense into interesting subject matter and telling a riveting story of something that’s both imperative to our times and culture, Oliver Stone has delivered another instalment to his list of political films, perhaps not quite as good as Wall Street or JFK but certainly a step above previous biographical attempt, W., creating a powerful, intriguing and quietly important film that whilst not fully lending itself to re-watchabilty due to its serious nature, remains a film that should be seen by anyone who owns a computer or mobile phone.
Still living in an undisclosed location in Russia while seeking asylum elsewhere, Edward Snowden remains barred from re-entering the United States. Doing what he did for us, the people, his story is worth knowing about.
Renegade? Hero? Check out Snowden and find out for yourself