Translating any story about the internet comes at a great handicap as what normally would be communicated through action, must be compensated through careful storytelling and the describing of process. How do you make a story about the process behind the leaking of documents one that engages and rivets? Oliver Stone does just this, delivering perhaps his greatest work in quite some time in Snowden.
The story still fresh on our minds, he gets deep into the psyche of whistleblower/traitor (however you stand on the matter) Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as we learn about his rise as a young man within the Central Intelligence Agency, where he learns that the privacy and fundamental rights of Americans are threatened when he is made aware that the big eight telecommunication corporations in the U.S. store and make accessible the activities of Americans to the National Security Agency.
Despite the government denying this, Snowden struggles with himself in a battle between conscience and career before deciding famously to leak several highly-classified documents, which prove exactly what the U.S. government didn’t want the world to know. We see him sacrifice also love with girlfriend Lindsay (Shailene Woodley) who struggles understanding his distance from her and also the highly-classified nature of his work. Snowden recounts the titular character’s role in carefully orchestrating the famous WikiLeaks leak which would rock the world through the Media, and also his planned exile to protect himself against persecution.
Gordon-Levitt is front and center in a masterful performance where from certain angles and in certain frames, we truly feel we are witnessing the real Snowden. The story plays from several angles, looking at his struggle with health, love, the government and also himself and on most levels he nails this portrait of a man both revered and misunderstood. We did hope for a bit more vulnerability, but we do get this late when we see the real Snowden reflect on a life of loss and what he gained from it.
Despite clocking-in almost two and a half hours, there rarely is a lull in Snowden and while we may have gotten pieces of the story in what we’ve seen and heard in the Media, the Film purely is an education and a celebration of what it means to be an American in the information age.
Elevation Pictures release SNOWDEN Friday, September 16, 2016.