In what should be a compelling story that reveals one of the US government’s biggest secrets at the hands of Edward Snowden is heavily weighed down with some poor pacing and confusing computer jargon that leaves the viewer scratching their head.
You’ve more than likely heard the name Edward Snowden being thrown around in the media for the last few years. In short, he was responsible for leaking information about the US government playing big brother, breaching everyone’s privacy through technology which included the internet and phones etc. And, as you can imagine, the government wasn’t too happy about it.
We start with Snowden (Joseph Gordon Levitt) joining the CIA and acing all the tests which catches the eye of Corbin O’Brian (Rhys Ifans), who takes Snowden under his wing and thrusts him into the CIA world. It’s not long before Snowden realises that not everything is played by the book when it comes to getting things done and immediately becomes paranoid which also effects the relationship with his girlfriend Lindsay (Shailene Woodley).
The story itself jumps from Snowden being interviewed by journalists and a documentary filmmaker, whilst holed up in a Hong Kong hotel due to the previous year’s events which lead up to the information being leaked to the public. Unfortunately this is where the movie loses you, where it needs to grab you the most. When it comes to explaining how Snowden is obtaining the data it does so ever so lightly and skims over how he actually does and just assumes you know what is going on.
There are however a handful of great scenes to be had. When paranoia really starts to kick in and Snowden finds out he’s being watched in his own home, it sets a tone you wish would stay far longer than it does.
At the helm is Oliver Stone who has a hit and miss ratio when it comes to his films. For every Platoon, there’s an Alexander. To his credit this movie is a bold move considering the government manipulates how the truth is revealed. Not one to shy away from controversy, it’s refreshing to see a director who pulls no punches.
On the performance front Joseph Gordon Levitt continually shows he has more range than most actors of his generation as he embodies Snowden with sincerity and paranoid innocence. Shailene Woodley is also good as his girlfriend who sticks by him no matter what. Rhys Ifans should get a special mention as the shady CIA director. Even Nicolas Cage makes a brief appearance as Snowden’s only moral compass within the CIA.
Disappointingly though the story itself feels a little choppy which is frustrating considering this actually happened in real life. It never seems to fully embrace the situation Snowden got himself in to and how it affected the people around him. If it wasn’t for the strong performance by Levitt we may have been left in the dark with what really happened.
Whilst not a total write-off, you’re left with the feeling of wanting to know more considering Snowden’s status and how that came to be.
This is the first feature film by Oliver Stone shot with digital cameras. Previously, he only used digital for documentary projects.