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Snowden

snowden-joseph-gordon-levitt

*** out of 5 stars

Oliver Stone is the ideal director for “Snowden”, the man I’ve admired who back in the 1980s and the early 1990s would willingly step into controversial subject matter such as his films “Platoon” (1986), “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989) and “JFK” (1991). “Snowden” is one of those controversial men who for most Americans are shaped in a binary cup: either hero or traitor.

Oliver Stone’s entire cast give solid performances though I must say compared to Laura Poitras’ 2014 documentary “Citizenfour”, Stone’s biography of Edward Snowden , roughly over a ten year period–c2004-2013–seizes on some of the same talking points with less gusto.

The story starts (in some flashbacks) with Snowden in the Army Reserves and being rewarded by hired with the CIA as a brainy nerd sur-passing his colleagues in scores. While working for the CIA, Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meets Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley) immediately become lovers. In one scene as Snowden and Mills walk through a protest against the war in Iraq, Snowden shows his conservative sentiments and Mills responds from a more liberal perspective.

One of the critical scenes in Stone’s version takes place in Hong Kong where Snowden meets with two international journalists Glenn Greenville (Zachary Quinto) and Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson) and an independent filmmaker Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo) to blow the cover off of US government domestic surveillance programs.

Edward goes back and forth between the CIA and the NSA (National Security Agency) getting advice from his mentor Corbin O’Brian (Rhys Ifans). A cameo by Nicholas Cage, an engineer, gives the initial wisdom to Snowden that he’s not so much in the terrorism business, but in the “military industrial happiness business”.

One must realize Stone is telling Snowden’s side of the story something the major press didn’t do. He shows Snowden becoming paranoid understandably after he decides to be a whistleblower when he realizes the surveillance is violating privacy to a large degree. Simply put, I learned much more from Poitras’ doc than Stone’s drama. His story is passable though it underachieves.

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Edward Snowden), Shailene Woodley (Lindsay Mills), Melissa Leo (Laura Poitras),Tom Wilkinson (Ewen MacAskill), Rhys Ifans (Corbin O’Brian), Nicholas Cage (Hank Forrester) Timothy Olyphant (CIA Agent Geneva), Bhasker Patel (Marwan Al-Kirmani), Patrick Joseph Byrnes (NSA Dep.Director Lowell). Running time: 134 minures. Director: Oliver Stone. (R)

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