Whistle-Blower Patriot or Traitor, most people have probably already made up their minds concerning Edward Snowden, perhaps the most controversial American since 9/11 (with stiff competition from Hillary and “The Donald”).
This very good movie, directed and co-written by Oliver Stone (along with Kieran Fitzgerald) is based on the book “The Snowden Files” (authored by Anatoly Kucherena and Luke Harding) and Laura Poitras’ award-winning documentary about Snowden, “Citizenfour”. The movie weaves together three themes about Snowden’s life – 1: Snowden’s start as a conservative patriot working for the CIA and NSA, his gradual discovery of the unbelievable invasion of privacy by these agencies who were (and probably still are) closely monitoring you, me, and everyone else in the world who uses a cell phone and/or computer, his unsuccessful attempt to change this ultimate “big brother” policy within the system, and, finally, Snowden’s intense guilt and anxiety about continuing to work with these agencies despite this knowledge; 2: Snowden’s relationship with his girlfriend Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley) and how his work keeps de-railing it; and 3: The “24”-like suspense through the last part of the film, with Snowden stealing the classified government documents and getting them released to the press!
The film works largely due to the terrific performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Snowden) and the compelling nature of the story. It also has an excellent ensemble cast, including Nicolas Cage, Tom Wilkinson, and Melissa Leo.
Despite the lack of privacy we all probably still have, we, like the Federal Reserve, are now all “data-dependent,” so we must hope that the changes supposedly made by these agencies – secondary to the release of Snowden’s material – has actually occurred. (I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it!) Stone unabashedly portrays the protagonist as a hero and, whether he is or not, he certainly was courageous and sacrificed a great deal to do what he thought was right. Perhaps Stone has done a “Snow job” on this complex story, but it’s a compelling film that’s worth a trip to the BS now.