Rated: R for language and some sexuality/nudity. Reviewed by: Frank Release date: September 16, 2016 Released by: Open Road Films
As director Oliver Stone works hard to create a hero of the actions of Edward Snowden he forgets a film can not succeed if it is not interesting to watch.
The actual story of what was released by Snowden and how it was done along with the ramifications and the background stories are just touched upon rather being the core of the story presented in Snowden, Snowden is rather a dull guy and when we know the story before viewing the film it becomes completely predictable and does not offer much that is interesting. There are no surprises and nothing new.
Stone also fails to look at the other side of the coin. What are the reasons for Snowden to face justice, if he returns from his exile in Russia that balance against Snowden's story could have been compelling but it's not here. In fact Stone frames many characters who question Snowden with menacing facial expressions which he regularly places on large screens as they pressure Snowden to play by the rules. Snowden also quits his job and then returns taking the income using what appears to be his skill at systems work. He himself has noted he had a great job in Hawaii with a good salary and a very attractive caring girl friend played effectively by Shailene Woodley. He is ambitious and takes promotions and enjoys moving up and receiving praise from higher-ups. The negative aspects of his employment are not noted.
Even as Snowden steals the information we are not treated to a period of tension. That could have been much more thrilling as the central basis for the film. It appears that Stone works to make a point rather than a gripping film. Stone also brings unnecessary confusion as he moves back and forward in time and spends energy making Snowden a patriot rather than a man in well over his head.
What is best in Snowden is the effective casting: Joseph Gordon-Levitt becomes Snowden, he looks like his character but his movements and expressions fit just right for the nerdy-brilliant technician. Shailene Woodley fits perfectly as his supportive love interest, she is convincing as a person in love but struggling with the dark side of Snowden's secret work. Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson and Melissa Leo work frantically in a Hong Kong hotel room pushing Snowden and publishers to present the stolen material. They are convincing advocates that won't quit.
We learn a couple of things from "Snowden" one is in this time when information is our most important product, it is wise to cover the camera eye on computers to protect from anyone attempting to reach in.
Stone has turned what could have been an exciting presentation with great performers into a bland quiet couple of hours.