Traitor, hero, thief and champion of truth are some of the many labels given to former NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the subject of Oliver Stone’s latest biopic simply titled Snowden. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the film spans over a decade with Snowden becoming a behind the scenes darling in the government through his work in the cyber field. The story is definitely an intriguing one with an abundance of grey area, which could set up a discussion after viewing as to what actions were right and which were wrong concerning the safety of our country.
Unfortunately, for a movie about the juicy secrets the government has been keeping from its citizens, Snowden is quite a boring take on a man who risked everything to present the truth for apparent zero personal gain. A patriot to some, a traitor to others seems like a subject ripe for the Oliver Stone treatment, but Snowden the man lacks excitement. Joseph Gordon-Levitt brings the central figure to life, but there’s not much charisma in the real life individual to begin with which hurts the viewing experience. Snowden is a wet blanket in terms of plot momentum and a hero (or villain) that is hard to get behind since his enthusiasm level is very low as he blows up his life for what he deems just and right.
Besides the bland personality in the form of Edward, Director Oliver Stone is all over the place as he unravels the drama at hand. You only get a small slice of Edward’s time in the Army and from there you jump from job to job along with Snowden until the leaking of the documents. Stone chooses not to focus on the more interesting aspects of the scandal such as government officials and their involvement in spying on Americans in favor of Snowden’s boring love life with his clueless girlfriend Lindsay Mills played by Shailene Woodley. Gordon-Levitt doesn’t share much chemistry with Woodley and their uninspired scenes together is a prime example of what is wrong with Snowden.
After watching Snowden, it’s obvious to understand why the film’s release date was pushed back numerous times. The decision to focus on the least exciting parts of Snowden’s life instead of the controversial aftermath that ensued after the leaks is what turns this incredible story into a dud of a movie. You feel every second of the film’s 2 hour and 18 minute running time as Snowden bounces from place to place with nothing for the audience to get invigorated about along the way. It’s too bad director Oliver Stone doesn’t capitalize on the thought-provoking material when presenting the man and his perceived patriotism in Snowden.
Overall, I give Snowden 1.75 out of 4 stars.
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