Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo
Director: Oliver Stone
Running Time: 134 mins
Snowden is an American film about the true story of Edward Snowden, a former CIA and NSA worker, who leaks the details of the USA’s extensive surveillance systems, which he believes are infringing on the population’s civil liberties.
For a film that depicts such a recent historical event, Snowden is an impressively engrossing and well-helmed film. Whilst it’s still got Oliver Stone’s own politically charged trademark to it, it makes for an interesting and even exciting watch, thanks to strong direction and great performances throughout.
Remembered most for his take on the assassination of JFK, Oliver Stone and politics is always a recipe for controversy and intrigue. Whilst he doesn’t go anywhere near as far into the world of conspiracy in Snowden as in JFK, there’s no doubting where this film stands in the debate about surveillance. Wildly one-sided from start to finish in favour of Snowden’s actions, you’d think that this would be another recipe for political preaching, but that’s not actually the case.
Whilst it’s not the film to go for if you’re looking for an assessment of the Snowden case, Oliver Stone does an excellent job at mixing his talents for politically charged drama with fact-based storytelling. As such, this is a very strong historical account of the events that take place, and although it’s not really meant to be watched from a neutral standpoint, there is without a doubt a lot to learn about the history, something that I absolutely loved.
One of the biggest strengths of the film is how surprisingly quickly it moves through the events at hand. You could say that the first act is a little slower, but the final two-thirds are pretty intense, giving this more of a thriller-like vibe instead of a plain old biopic. But that’s one of the reasons that it’s so engrossing to watch, as it keeps you on your toes with its rapid-fire and strong political motives, providing more and more fascinating information right up to the last moment.
What’s also massively impressive about this film is the central performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Although he may not be the spitting image of the real Edward Snowden, he does a fantastic job at bringing his personality to life on the big screen. Principally, it’s all about getting Snowden’s side of the story across, rather than that of the US Government, and through Gordon-Levitt’s impressively likable and competent performance, that comes off perfectly.
Finally, I do have a few small issues with the film. On the pedantic side of things, the opening act is a little choppily-edited, and there seem to be a lot of frame rate inconsistencies throughout, both of which were very distracting to see crop up on various occasions. In the bigger picture, the film’s one-sidedness, whilst integral to its passionate and exciting delivery of historical fact, does become a little tiresome at points, and although it’s by no means as preachy as you’d expect, there are a few sequences that I felt could have been toned down, without losing the film’s impressive intensity.
That said, I really liked Snowden. An exciting and massively engrossing historical drama that comes off like a thriller thanks to Oliver Stone’s passionate direction, it’s a great watch, improved even more by a very strong central performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8.