Director Oliver Stone is a notorious cinematic trouble-maker. Helming films like JFK, Natural Born Killers, Nixon and W, his penchant for stirring pots is well known. Whatever his agenda, his movies have been fascinating with the questions posed lingering.
Snowden is the latest enabling audience’s brains to tick. Having much in common with its independently-minded subject, Stone successfully teases out the intrigue following Edward Snowden with which he would certainly relate.
An employee of the American CIA, Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is a hard worker moving up the ranks. Gradually disillusioned with what he sees, he decides to leak sensitive security information to a major British newspaper. Revealing many secret global surveillance programs with ties to the highest levels of government, Snowden’s actions make him a wanted man. Events spiral out of control with his life in peril from those angered at his treasonous actions.
Whether you agree with Snowden’s actions or not, the film effectively explores why he did them. Snowden shows how his ethical moral compass was shaken by the dubious politics involved in surveillance and military operations. Resulting in death and loss of privacy, the ways of high ranking employers needled Snowden’s sense of personal right and wrong. Although we’re seeing just one side of the argument, Stone knows how to tell a compelling narrative to allow the viewer to understand events.
None of this would work without some fine performances. Gordon-Levitt adds to his solid thespian credentials as a man torn between duty to his country and his beliefs. You feel the conflicting emotions via Gordon-Levitt’s acting, making it easy to become involved. Whilst occasionally Stone directs with heavy handedness making the pace slacken, he injects passion into the story. Helped by a strong ensemble cast with a continually tense atmosphere, he delivers one of his better films of recent times.
Snowden will no doubt be as controversial as Stone’s other works. His reputation as a silver screen ratbag is still intact with his latest making Snowden an unusual hero. It’s an interesting movie deftly venturing into the ways of government shenanigans where truth is often not what it seems.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 7