I’m not going to lie, when I walked into Snowden, I was not entirely knowledgeable on the events surrounding Edward Snowden in 2013. I had a vague idea that it had to do with surveillance and a mass leak of information, but that’s about it. However, this had no impact on the terrific experience I had watching Snowden and that is one of the film’s main strengths.
Directed by Oliver Stone and featuring an all-star cast including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, and everyone’s favourite OTT actor/meme Nicolas Cage, Snowden is a fascinating political drama. It recounts Edward Snowden’s time working for both the CIA and the NSA and the events that lead to him leaking classified information about the NSA to the press.
The first thing to say about the film is that Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers an astonishing performance as Edward Snowden. He very convincingly manages to convey Snowden’s anxieties, isolation and sense of responsibility that comes with his job. Shailene Woodley, of Fault in Our Stars and Spectacular Now fame, is also terrific as Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, who acts as Snowden’s moral compass, but is also strong-willed, outspoken and, at times, selfish.
As you would expect from an Oliver Stone film, Snowden is very politically-minded and investigates the ideas of mass surveillance and what it means to be free in a very interesting way, through its narrative structure. However, director Oliver Stone should also be commended for not neglecting the emotional aspects of Snowden’s life and the film surprisingly spends some time focusing on Snowden’s health concerns as well as his various disputes with girlfriend Lindsay. But Snowden is undoubtedly another political film from Oliver Stone and following the recent disappointments of Savages and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, sees Stone’s return to solid form.