Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Snowden

  • Film
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Snowden


Thu, 08/12/2016 - 15:49


Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Snowden
08 December, 2016

Certificate 12a

THE story of Edward Snowden’s decision to act as a whistleblower and reveal that the US was basically carrying out giant data sweeps of emails, text messages, internet searches and the like made global news and was called the “greatest act of treason in US history”.

Now veteran director Oliver Stone has turned Snowden’s story into a fairly watchable feature film, carefully laying out his motivation and attempting to personalise Snowden’s story so we have a better understanding about a man whose decision to go rogue blew the lid on one of the biggest scandals regarding government behaviour in recent history. 

We learn his back story: a conservative (with a small ‘c’), a person who considered himself a patriot, Snowden had hoped to join a Special Forces regiment and serve in Iraq but due to an accident did not get through basic training. 

His intelligence and aptitude for computers meant he could serve his country in different way – namely, working for the CIA.

We follow his story from his enrolment through to his dissatisfaction with his work, eventually fleeing to Hong Kong to leak information to the Guardian. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead is believable, as is Shailene Woodley in the role of his long-suffering girlfriend, Lindsay. Support is offered ably by Tom Wilkinson as Guardian journo Ewen MacAskill. However, weak links in the casting are provided by Rhys Ifans as a moody CIA top dog and Nic Cage as a CIA computer number cruncher who acted as a mentor. Both should have added star quality, but aren’t really given enough to do in terms of what they are meant to represent.

Snowden’s story has been told in documentary format – see Citizen Four, and we have also had Luke Harding’s excellent book The Snowden Files.

This means Stone’s film doesn’t go over any new ground-breaking revelations, but it does offer a more personal insight into Snowden and therefore his motivations. 

Snowden is worthy of having his story told by the director of such films such as Platoon and JFK:  he saw his government acting in a way that he knew was wrong, and went with his conscience to show this. His whistleblowing was at great personal expense, but to have done nothing would have been so much more damaging. 

The very cornerstone of a progressive democracy is the tacit understanding that the State works in a way that is not to the detriment of its citizens – and what Snowden did was show that today, in this world of constant electronic communication, that those who monitor such traffic were busing methods that raised issues that go to the very core of how far a government should go to keep its people “safe”, and just how much intrusion is acceptable.  

By building up a picture of this computer geek we are gently led to a more complete understanding of why he did what he did, the gravity of his actions, the immense personal risks he ran: it makes him a true hero of the modern age. 

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