By Roger Thomas
Most of us know who Edward Snowden is and what he did. Just to remind us all, Snowden is the young man who discovered that our government might potentially have information that our citizens thought were private. Once he discovered this, he made sure he got evidence to back up his claims, and he fled the country. I will not try to resolve whether he is a hero or a villain. You should see the film and make your own decision about that. I will only offer my opinions of the film.
“Snowden” is directed and co-written by filmmaker Oliver Stone. Most film fans have opinions about Stone. I have liked much of his work through the years. If I had to list his best I would choose “Platoon,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” “JFK,” “Nixon,” and “World Trade Center.” All five of these are better films than “Snowden”; however Stone’s new film is not a disaster.
“Snowden” is that it is a very dense film. There is a lot of things happening. There are a lot of choices made. There is also, as one would predict, a lot of techno-babble. I can barely use a computer to type up these reviews, so needless to say, I was often confused by the conversations. However, that did not always hinder my experience with the film. On some occasions, things that were confusing were eventually explained. Ultimately, “Snowden” is not an easy-going slow-paced comedic drama. “Serious” and “dense” keep resonating in my mind as I reflect on the film.
I also wish we could have had a better understanding of who Edward Snowden was and is. There is a subplot involving Snowden’s girlfriend. In those moments the audience sees a different side of the man not heard on the nightly news. Those scenes are too short and never offer quire a clear glance of who the man is. I am sure more patrons of this film will likely seek the main story dealing with computers and information, but I believe the film could have been stronger with more personal scenes.
I would offer praise for the cast. It is good to see Zachary Quinto playing a role other than Spock from the recent “Star Trek” film series. Melissa Leo is always a pleasant surprise though her role was very subdued. Then there is the young man in the title role of Snowden, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I have watched this young actor since he played a teenage alien in “Third Rock from the Sun.” I almost always enjoy his work. He did another fine job in this film, though I liked him better in last year’s “The Walk.” I also continue to believe that his finest film is the “500 Days of Summer,” the best romantic comedy of the last fifteen years.
Toward the end of the film, just before the credits, the real Edward Snowden appears on screen. He continues to reside in Russia. His girlfriend, who leaves him during the story depicted in the film, has now moved to Russia to be with him. Their love and commitment to one another seems to be stronger than it was depicted in the brief scenes.
As a film, there are strengths and weaknesses. For me, it left some questions. Are the events depicted in the film accurately? If they are, I am little concerned about our government. If the events are not accurate, then I am offended. Perhaps, someone will explain it to me at some point.
If a government agent is reading this review on a computer or in the paper, just know this, “I am not a threat and I have no absolute opinion about whether Edward Snowden is or is not.”