They're watching you.
Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a man who worked as a contractor for both the CIA and NSA. During his time there, he's shocked to learn just how deeply the U.S government is spying on its own citizens. The film starts in 2013, when Snowden means with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, (Melissa Leo) and journalists Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Ewen MacAskill in Hong Kong. If you remember, they brought us the brilliant Oscar winning documentary Citizenfour. The film is the told through flashbacks of how Snowden got to that point through his work, and through his relationship with Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley)
The best thing a movie that's dramatizing something already covered in a documentary can do is not try to replicate it, and thankfully director Oliver Stone does that well. While Citizenfour spoke about a lot of what Snowden leaked, this film lets us get to know he was as a person as he goes along this journey. Snowden is humanized mostly through his relationship with Lindsay, and also through his supervisor at the CIA, Corbin O'Brien played by Rhys Ifans. Having enjoyed Citzenfour so much, I was worried how this would compare, and I'm happy to say that I enjoyed this version very much.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a solid performance as always. It makes me wish this film was getting better reviews overall so that this would be an Oscar vehicle for him. He certainly deserves it. He says so much with his face, every time Snowden seems something he shouldn't, or is faced with the reality of how much surveillance there really is, you can see his eyes drop a little, even though he's trying hard not to show his emotions. He changed his entire voice for the role as well, and when we hear the real Edward Snowden talk at the end of the film, you see just how close he actually gets. Shailene Woodley and the rest of the supporting cast all give strong performances as well along side him, but he's the clear stand out.
I don't expect this movie to replace the documentary as a source of information, it shouldn't, but it's definitely geared towards those who may normally skip them, and that's okay. His story is an important one and it deserves to be heard in many formats. Stone plays it safe too regarding what you think should happen to him. The film isn't saying one way or another on whether or not he should be pardoned for the information he released. On one hand, you get to know Snowden and are on his side, but you also feel for O'Brien for a brief moment when he sees what his protege has done.
It loses a bit of steam towards the end, but it remains an engaging and thought provoking film throughout.
Memorable Quote: "Can you tell me where you're going?" - Lindsay (Shailene Woodley)