This Friday Oliver Stone brings his film regarding the life of Edward Snowden to the screen as Open Road Films tells of “Snowden.”
Having the film begin with Oliver Stone holding a cell phone up with a “public service” announcement about Big Brother watching told me a lot about what I was going to see.
It is 2013 and in a hotel room, Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has gathered reporters Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo), Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson). Basically this is a re-enactment to my way of thinking of the documentary “Citizen Four” where Snowden once again records his story.
He presents the journalists with information they will need to back up his story. Okay, back to the film!
From the very beginning the melodramatic music plays attempts to convince that Snowden was a noble American patriot with him in uniform. Quickly the little Gomer Pyle has his patriotism cut short when his weak knees can’t handle boot camp. Disappointed that he can’t continue, the doctor spews out the line that Snowden will have to continue to “serve his country in other ways” which cuts to joining the CIA.
He trains at ‘The Hill’ under the watchful eye of Corbin O’Brian (Rhys Ifans), Snowden speaks to Hank Forrester (Nicolas Cage) who encourages him to keep his eyes open as to what is happening but never specifically says what. Starting his career as a smart-ass over achiever, I get the feeling he thinks it will impress his instructors.
Also, Snowden meets his online tech-mate Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley). He shares that he works for the government and they can’t really discuss what he does. That doesn’t seem to stop the couple from hooking up.
Embraced by both O’Brian and Forrester, Snowden continues with his unconvincing flag waving trying to shove his patriotism down my throat which I suppose succeeded since I was choking on it. Taking a position in Geneva, he is in the section that deals with security. This is where he learns that the world is being watched through the internet.
Really wanting to work on a case, he bugs an agent who finally has clearance asking Snowden to get banking information from guests at a gathering. This is pretty much where we discover that he has no social skills, is uncomfortably awkward and needs to be saved by girlfriend Lindsay.
When he realizes what it takes to be involved in a case, Snowden becomes the morality police and every other person in the film becomes a bad guy. Deciding to resign from the CIA, he goes to Japan to work for Dell and Lindsay follows him being the girlfriend who gives up everything for her man. This is around the time Barack Obama is running for president and Snowden believes the new commander-in-chief could change things. While he’s tries to convince me that he is upset (again) by what he does, he continues helping to spy on countries, people and places.
Snowden becomes upset (again) that everything he is doing is under the umbrella of terrorism. Continuing to work with people he continues to wave the banner of patriotism. That’s when the big speech happens as poor Edward doesn’t understand why he has to spy on everyone.
Of course all this wonderful patriotic guilt has an effect on his relationship with Lindsay. In 2011 they return to the United States and Snowden goes back to the CIA as a contractor. That’s when he hears that people are coming out whistle blowing on the government and you can see the hamster wheel in his head turning. Not happy (again), he hangs with instructor O’Brian and boo-hoo’s about how disappointed he is.
When offered a position in Hawaii that is created specifically for him, Lindsay isn’t happy that she once again is really on the back burner. Right before they leave, the couple discovers Snowden has a medical issue. That scare changes Lindsay’s mind to move to Hawaii for his health (to which I almost yelled ‘sucker!’ at Lindsay).
Off to the islands they go and Snowden takes up spying again. Apparently his unhappiness flows back and forth like a wave that eventually makes one want to heave. He continues to create weapons systems and when the “Ed’s unhappy” boat washes ashore again he becomes god-like with the ‘no one can do it but me’ mentality.
In the meantime he figures out that those in charge are watching him but more importantly he is caught spying on his own girlfriend – you know, doing the thing he is upset that the government does. Now more paranoid than ever he decides he needs to get the information off his computer – you know, CLASSIFIED INFORMATION – and give it to journalists.
Stone decides he needs a way to make sure the audience knows that Snowden is a hero so as he creeps out of work with classified information stashed in a cube, there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel that Snowden walks into with the angels singing with a crescendo that should move one to tears. Oh I was crying alright, of ridiculousness.
Snap back to 2013 as Snowden watches as the journalists put it out to the world and spends days watching the news with his face plastered everywhere. Stone also lets him take the long prismatic walk into the media lions den to run from the legal charges now facing him.
With crappy airport security – Snowden goes from Hong Kong to Russia. Once out of reach, Snowden gets a chance to talk about American principles with patriotic music playing in the background starting out soft and banging me on the head as if it were saying ‘get on board with us!’
All of this in an attempt to convince me that Snowden is a hero of the people. Morphing into the real Snowden his battle cry is ‘we will not be silenced!’ Continuing to show the real Snowden, it is almost as if he was auditioning for a part.
First of all nothing will convince me Snowden is anything more than a teenager who used the system he complained about to keep an eye on his girlfriend. Insecurities are not the basis for what he did. For years this man was okay with the work he did and had no problem cashing the government paychecks.
Must be nice to break the law and run to another country where there is no accountability. He should teach a course so the next time I get pulled over for a ticket I can use the “Edward Snowden Method of No Accountability.” He put peoples’ lives in danger, including his co-workers and family yet “hey…thought the world should know.” He lives with his girlfriend, well taken care of while others get to clean up his mess.
All I can say is watch out Russia, like a beater if he hits once he will do it again!
Yes, this review is different because although I really love Stone’s film “JFK,” this is a big ball of hot mess. Levitt was actually quite irritating with his fake low voice and superior Snowden attitude. Wasn’t impressed in the slightest. Woodley as Lindsay portrays this character as a woman who will follow her man anywhere and forget about her own life and seems perfectly okay with everything else.
Cage as Forrester gets a few minutes in the beginning and a few minutes at the end where he cheers without actually cheering when Snowden goes public.
Richardson as Janine gets a tongue lashing from Quinto’s character as if a journalist would talk to an editor that way and still have a job. Olyphant gets to be a cool James Bond for a few scenes as CIA Agent Geneva and he does look amazing.
Leo as Laura babies Snowden every chance she gets, Quinto as Greenwald is hot tempered and intense. Wilkinson character only wants the story – period.
Ifans as Corbin O’Brian is the scary “villain” created by Snowden. Ifans gives his character a frightening element that doesn’t shift gears. There are moments where this character edges on being a softer human being and then snaps out of it. Loved his performance which is weird.
So I’m sure by now it is clear that I am not a fan of this film. The tagline says ‘you don’t have to pick a side, but you will’ giving us choices of soldier, traitor, spy, hero, hacker and patriot. What the film managed to do was irritate and annoy me. Sorry if I don’t ohhhh and ahhhh Stone’s effort.
If you want to see a film that is uplifting and reminds us of the human spirit might I suggest “Sully” because Tom Hanks is a face I’d always trust. Snowden on the other hand …..
In the end — the filmmaker would have us believe that the film is “one nation under surveillance for liberty and justice for all.”
You may now turn on your cell phone!