Snowden, Oliver Stone’s latest big ol’ Hollywood release, tells the story of Edward Snowden, the CIA whistleblower who released hundreds of NSA documents to the public in 2013, revealing that the American government was collecting irrelevant data about millions of Americans through their electronic devices. With Snowden played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and featuring a wide-ranging supporting cast including Zachary Quinto, Shailene Woodley and Nicolas Cage (yes, you read that right), Stone has produced a film that, however cheesy in execution, can’t help but be fascinating in subject matter.
Snowden is a fairly run-of-the-mill drama that is saved by the real-life material that it works from. While it could do without clichéd scenes depicting Snowden’s struggling relationship with his girlfriend (Woodley), much of the revealing of the shady collection of online information is done relatively well, making sure to hammer home the gravity of the situation and intrusion into civilians’ privacy.
Yet the fact of the story’s truth is so ludicrous that it seems like a waste of effort to have made a dramatised version of it; with a highly rated documentary already made about the whistleblower (CitizenFour), it does beg the question of whether Stone’s film is actually necessary. Some of the most exciting moments are the film’s use of genuine media coverage of Snowden’s whistleblowing, again drawing attention to the fact that the film would be better as a documentary, and that this already has been done.
Snowden is an interesting, at times tense and gripping watch that is carried through by the fact that it is based on truth. However, its execution in the style of a classic Oscar-baity biopic makes for a rather flat and unimaginative retelling of a story that has already been told in documentary form.
CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Nicolas Cage
DIRECTOR: Oliver Stone
WRITERS: Kieran Fitzgerald, Oliver Stone
SYNOPSIS: Snowden tells the dramatised story of Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who, in 2013, released controversial information on the NSA’s use of civilians’ private technological devices.