By Candler Lowe, Campus Carrier Arts & Living Editor
Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” brings the fascinating and true story of Edward Snowden, one of the most notorious whistle-blowers in history, to the big screen.
The film takes on the task of turning an ongoing historical event into a relatively entertaining film, and it does so without complete disregard for the actual story. It wasn’t a dazzler, but I would see it again.
This film tells the story of Edward Snowden, who became a household name in 2013 when he leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) to journalists without prior authorization while working as a contractor for the United States government.
After leaking the documents, he flew to Hong Kong and then sought asylum in Russia, where he has been for the past three years, making him one of the most wanted men in America.
The film tackles the fad of turning recent historic events into movies, but without the melodramatic effect that other films of this nature fall into.
“Snowden” falls into the category of recent-historical movies, but it does its best to stand alone. Stone emphasizes subtle details of the true story by pulling away from information offered by headlines. The movie focuses on the human side of the story, offering a different view of Snowden.
“Snowden” tells this story through the excellent work of the cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle. Mantle shows the chill of the events that took place using dark coloration to provide a serious tone for the movie.
The music accompanying key scenes also helps to give the film a sober feel, thanks to the composers Craig Armstrong and Adam Peters.
Snowden’s actions are subject to controversy. He is both a celebrated whistle-blower and a criminal — the most notable members of the anti-Snowden club being President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
However, the film takes the side of its subject, despite the controversy of his actions.
In such a confusing time, it is easy to get caught up in the frenzy of conflicting views. The script of the film tries to stick to the facts, with the obvious minor embellishments.
Stone’s view of Snowden as the protagonist goes beyond the journalistic perspective and leans towards that of an editorial. It follows Snowden as he leaves the U.S. Army and comes to the realization that he can serve his country in other ways.
Shailene Woodley’s portrayal of Lindsey, the long-suffering girlfriend who did her best to stand by her man, is a key instance of showing the more human side of the Snowden story. Although this aspect of the story is embellished, Woodley’s acting is an accurate portrayal of how anyone would feel in her circumstances. The conflict of love, duty, living a normal life and doing what is right is evident throughout the film.
Snowden is the film’s hero, not the traitor many see him as. He is presented as a young man who has experienced life through his time in the military and knows what is at stake for the people of his country.
Maybe a big part of the reason that Snowden’s acts are shown as heroic and not traitorous is because of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. No matter the role he is playing, the puppy dog eyes and dimples shine through the serious face he tries to use in his portrayal of Snowden. Even so, I found it to be a compelling performance.
Even though the movie fulfilled my wishes of seeing the epic story portrayed on the big screen, there was also a solid element of humor in the midst of this oh-so-serious movie: Nicolas Cage working for the CIA.
As a whole, the movie never crossed into being melodramatic, but quietly did its job to show an important part of history without adding or taking away from the truth. I would give this movie a solid 7 out of 10.