Snowden – film review

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays former CIA computer agent and whistleblower on surveillance tech Edward Snowden, in the new dramatisation ‘Snowden‘. Oliver Stone directs.

To be very blunt, this film manages to keep you hooked for the first two thirds, before falling into the weirdest closing sequence you will see. The film spans a large part of Edward Snowden‘s life, starting with his army training in 2004, before he is then an applicant for the CIA following a leg injury. The film is fast moving between all of these elements, the sharp quick paced dialogue helping.

Rhys Ifans is great as the Deputy Director Corbin O’Brian. The part was made Ifans, and just wouldn’t be right under the guise of anyone else. As the narrative develops pressure mounts on Snowden to ensure the safety of his girlfriend Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley). He is made to realise the extent of the NSA’s capabilities, and the implications of this.

Snowden‘ has had similar reactions in the press and across the internet. Many articles claiming that it fails where documentary ‘Citizenfour‘ (2014) succeeds in creating dramatic tension. The truth is that ‘Snowden‘ works very well in building an audience expectation and constantly ramping up the intensity of each dramatic sequence. There are several moments of truly nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat action sequence. This is quite surprising given that it is a film centred around surveillance technology.

The moments of action sequence we do get are well shot, and fine detailed. The camera tells us exactly the information vital to the narrative. In other films, the use of close-up, and extreme close-up might seem out of place. Here it matches physical on-screen info and the reactions in the facial expressions of the characters

Where it really disappoints, unfortunately, is the ending. Without being too spoilerific, the performances the journalists give are so hammy it becomes unbearable. The closing sequence, much like the end of ‘The Fifth Estate‘, is intended to the be inspirational and thought provoking. Here it layers on the melodrama to almost cringeworthy levels. The moments leading up to the credits feel like a TED Talk.

The film before it fulfils all of the criteria of a dramatisation of real events. Gordon-Levitt treads the line of concern very well. The script is to the point. Although the narrative spans a number of years, we are kept at the edge of our seats for the most part. It is a great shame about the ending of the film, this may also be linked to the fact the the running time is more than two hours – perhaps it is also a shade too long in duration.

[rating=3]|Zach Roddis

Biography, Drama | USA,2016| 15| 9th December 2016 (UK)| Vertigo Films |Dir.Oliver Stone | Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Rhys Ifans, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Nicolas Cage