Snowden (2016)

Snowden (2016)

While the film does fully flesh out Edward Snowden, it fails to keep things interesting as the movie progresses.

Snowden is about an intelligent IT specialist Edward Snowden, who worked for the CIA, NSA, and found out the government was using special technology to spy on people around the world. Based on the real-life man, this film explores his beginnings as a cadet in the military to his plot to expose the secret articles that detail facts about how the government spies on people without them knowing about it. Throughout the film, we see Snowden discover more secrets and we see the amount of pressure it has on him to keep these secrets concealed.


Snowden begins as an interesting political thriller, but loses momentum halfway through the film. The first half of the film fleshes out Snowden’s character. We first see him enlist into the military, and then we see him medically discharged due to medical problems. Later, he meets and dates Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley). Furthermore, he eventually starts to work for the CIA and the NSA. All of these events keep our attention, because we get to learn so much about Snowden. But, the film becomes repetitive in the way of similar events happening over and over. For example, several scenes reveal Snowden’s struggle to keep the government’s secrets to himself. He badly wants to tell his girlfriend Lindsay about the how the government uses technology to spy on people, but feels that by doing so, he would put her in danger. These scenes play out throughout the film, and while it does reveal Snowden’s anxiety and motivation to publicly release the documents, it still slows down the pace of the film. However, Snowden’s interactions with the reporters from The Guardian sometimes keep the drama intriguing to watch.

Directed and co-written by Oliver Stone, he paints Snowden as a hero.  Oliver Stone and co-writer Kieran Fitzgerald structured the screenplay in a way that would flesh out the character where we would grow to like Snowden’s character. From scenes of Snowden becoming a standout at the CIA and NSA, to him putting his own life in danger to expose the truth, reveal Snowden’s most admirable qualities. In the end, we do see many people respect Snowden for his actions. But, since the real-life Snowden received the title of “whistleblower,” it is more of a grey area on whether or not Snowden is a hero or criminal. Viewers of this film may share that same idea, while others will appreciate Stone’s choice to portray him as a hero.

Despite the repetitive nature of the film, the actors in the movie keep the movie afloat. Joseph Gordon-Levitt adds another good performance to his filmography. He successfully changes his voice to sound like the real-life Snowden, and captures the idiosyncrasies of him. Shailene Woodley plays the role of Lindsay Mills well. Woodley portrays the character as a funny, patient, and energetic person who loves Snowden and is faithful to him. Actors Nicolas Cage, Rhys Ifans, Zachary Quinto, and Tom Wilkinson play their respective roles well, giving enough depth to their characters.

In the end, Snowden intrigues viewers with its premise and its protagonist, but declines in interest as the film rolls along.

Rating: 2.75 out of 5

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