Snowden

Snowden

Rating Out of 5

3.5
3.5

SnowdenI have to admit that I knew fuck-all about Edward Snowden before heading into this movie. I mean, I’d seen the dude on the news and had a general sense of what Snowden did, but my recollection of exactly what he blew the whistle on in what government program was definitely fuzzy. And my memory of how he got his hands on what he got his hands on was totally lacking. I’ll also admit that I only went to see this thing because I had to kill a couple hours and it just happened to be playing at the right time at the right location. So it wasn’t pure curiosity and interest in the subject matter that drove me…

So let’s get this out of the way: this is an Oliver Stone film. The man has never pretended to be anything other than a dude who directs films from a certain point of view. The man loooooves conspiracies and never, ever hides what he thinks in his films. They often come across as slightly paranoid and overwrought. This is why he is often thought of as a pretty divisive guy. Generally when you come out as an ardent supporter of a giant douchebag like Julian Assange, it can drive a wedge between people who love movies and, well, people who hate rapey, international douchebags. With that, I was shocked (shocked!) that there wasn’t more heavy-handed political commentary in this film. Not that there wasn’t any, but it certainly wasn’t the deluge of nonsense that usually accompanies Stone’s films. I did very little eye rolling and shaking of my head. I also didn’t find myself distracted by his usual technique of constantly interspersing visual noise through the use of oddball film stock changes, off-kilter shots, audio intrusions and various other things that seem to serve very little purpose other than to show you that Stone wants to remind you he’s an auteur. That said, he goes out of his way to show us that Snowden is a moral, good guy. And a brilliant guy, self-made and altruistic in his pursuit of the truth. And, by eliminating his usual tricks and blah-blah, he manages to make the portrayal pretty convincing. A smart guy who just wanted to serve his country honorably, until he discovered something that he felt didn’t represent the country he loved. Stone sets it up well, actually, making him a pretty sympathetic character, regardless of exactly how much of it is real or not.

The most interesting part of the movie, and the part that really gets to the heart of why Snowden does what he does, is the love story with his girlfriend, Lindsay. The setup with them and his dedication to their relationship creates the tension between staying with her and their comfortable life (the man was living in Hawaii and making bucks as a contractor) or be a whistleblower and live life on the lamb. It’s a smart choice by the filmmakers, honestly, as it adds a ton of humanity to the character and allows Gordon-Levitt to be smart and allows the charming and the absolutely adorable Shailene Woodley (an actress I was less than familiar with) to make you wonder how anyone could possibly walk away — even if you found out our government was wiretapping millions of innocent Americans. It just gives you one more reason to believe his motivations and makes him come off as a man honestly without a choice. He had to do it! Look, I’m easily influenced. I came in with very little in the way of an opinion about Snowden and what he did, but I certainly came out of it with some thoughts and what I felt like was at least a little bit of a sense of his motivation. And, after all, isn’t that what movies like this are supposed to do?