Film Review: “Snowden” (2016)

“Snowden” does an excellent job at portraying a factual take on this important modern story despite not being perfect


American Graffiti’s review of Oliver Stone’s latest relevant political film

By Carter Bagley


Oliver Stone has always been a very controversial filmmaker with his political films like “Platoon”, “JFK”, and “Born On The Fourth Of July” and now he’s taken on the task of making a film based on the world famous whistleblower Edward Snowden. A soldier in the U.S. Army who suffered injury and went on to become an extraordinary CIA employee and later the NSA, Edward Snowden was no doubt always trying to do what’s best for his country. For years he worked for America and nobody questioned his patriotism, yet in the end it’s always one act that defines us forever. Whether we want to believe that or not is up to us but when you do something that’s bigger than you you’ll always be seen as that image and not as a person. It’s truly awful when you really stop and think about it, being seen as more than just the person you really are no doubt has some damaging effects on someone and their image. This is exactly what happened to Edward Snowden ever since he made that one bold decision in 2013. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as the titular originalcontroversial figure and he does an outstanding job at conveying raw humanity in this man that many people across America and all over the world have strong opinions on. He completely becomes the character sounding completely like him and having the exact same mannerisms and facial expressions. He truly outdoes himself and delivers one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from him, only cementing himself even more as an amazingly capable actor. Snowden’s life leading up to the conclusion we all knew was coming was delved into immensely. You get to see his relationship with his long term girlfriend Lindsay Mills played wonderfully by Shailene Woodley who I haven’t been too keen on previously but she definitely changed my opinion of her with this film. Other actors did phenomenally well too like Rhys Ifans who has a pretty sizable role as Snowden’s corrupt CIA superior. Oliver Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald wrote the film out of sequence as it moves fluently back and forth between 2013, when Snowden was getting reporters (Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo, and Tom Wilkinson) to break the top secret stories, and the years leading up to. Stone does an amazing job and is better than he’s been in recent memory. You start to really get an understanding for Snowden and the other characters, even the minor ones you also understand completely. Nicholas Cage has a very small but pivotal role in the development of Snowden’s character as his views on the United States Government changes drastically throughout his years of service, though Snowden in the film never lost his patriotism. This is by no means a perfect film though as even though the movie never bored me, it did seem a little lengthy at times and I think 20 minutes of it could’ve been cut out at certain parts here and there. I also still can’t say the real Edward Snowden is as great as this film makes him out to be as I obviously don’t know the real man, but ultimately I do completely agree with the decision he made to release all those classified documents to the press. He could’ve done it in a really dumb way but Snowden knew the weight of what he was doing and he made sure the documents were placed in the hands of the right reporters. This isn’t a perfect film by any means but it’s receiving many mixed reviews at the moment and I definitely don’t understand why. It’s a very well made film with great performances and it’s also very topical, important, and has something to say. I think many years from now we could look back on “Snowden” and say it’s one of those films that critics got wrong, as it’s a really good movie overall, and I’m not going to be one of those critics. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Oscar-worthy as Edward Snowden and the film makes you question exactly what patriotism really means. Does it mean to blindly support your government or to blindly follow your countries people and the ideals it stands for? It really depends on who you ask and it’ll be many years before the final textbook opinion on Snowden is completely formed, but either way he revealed to all of us some truths we must analyze whether you agree with him or not and this film does a very competent job at reflecting this.

Rating: 8.5/10

Author: carterbagley

I'm a high school kid who loves screenwriting, songwriting, singing, and is an avid consumer of Film and Music.

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