Jack Brink

Rating: R

Score: 4/10 stars

Snowden was released in the United States on Sept. 9, 2016, and has stirred up heavy debates between its movie goers, which isn’t surprising, considering its controversial subject matter. Snowden centers around the eponymous Edward Snowden (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who,  in June of 2013, travelled to Hong Kong and revealed thousands of classified NSA documents to the media. The film focuses on both this moment, as well as the many events that took place before, that eventually led Snowden to do what he did.

The biggest talking point of this film was of course whether or not you found him justified in his actions. Snowden could have done a great job of adding fuel to the flame of the public’s debate by adequately showing both sides of the argument, but this, being an Oliver Stone directed film, instead decided to solely paint Edward Snowden as a hero and patriot, and nothing else, which is very unfortunate.

That’s not to say that some of the more positive aspects of his actions shouldn’t be shown, it’s just that the film goes so out of its way to paint Snowden as a hero; you don’t really get the chance to form an opinion for yourself. None of the negative effects of his actions were highlighted in the film, and almost every one of Snowden’s government superiors are portrayed as corrupt, which makes it very hard to root against him.

The fact that the actual quality of the film that gives its content a significant meaning is because Edward’s actions are controversial, leaves the movie with a lot to be desired. The film would have honestly worked so much better as TV miniseries. There is so much to cover in the 134 minute run time, as Snowden‘s creators attempt to go over nine years of Snowden’s life, and try to fit in as much of what happened between 2004-2013 as possible. Because of this, many of the events that happen in the film feel rushed or forced, and Snowden just jumps from government job to government job every twenty minutes, making him seem like someone who is overdramatic and ready to overreact in any situation he doesn’t like.

Another major element impaired by the rushed nature of the film is the romantic subplot between Edward and his girlfriend Lindsay Mills (played by Shailene Woodley), which competes for time with the main idea of Edward’s growing mistrust of the government. This leads to Edward and Lindsay’s relationship being absolutely horrible to watch onscreen, as it becomes a repetitive cycle of  “Ed’s paranoia from a new job causes a rift with Lindsay, Ed can’t reveal information to Lindsay,  Lindsay leaves Ed or becomes distant from him, and Ed wins Lindsay back by being sincere”. This happens at basically every major locale they visit, which makes for a very frustrating progression of events, so aggravating, that, in the end, you really don’t care whether they stay together or not; which is unfortunate, as it appears to be something the movie wanted you to care about deeply. Other than Edward, there’s no real compelling characters that make the movie worthwhile, which could be a huge problem depending on your opinion of Ed.

It’s not all bad though. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a great job with what material he is given, and really sells Snowden’s emotional turmoil, although it has to be said the voice he uses to play Edward takes a couple minutes to get used to. The movie tackles some in-depth and technological subject matter as well, and does a very good job explaining the details and effects of  each without dumbing information down too much.

Snowden is mediocre at best, and a one-sided piece of propaganda at worst. Unfortunately, this isn’t the movie you want to see if you want to be informed on the truth of Edward Snowden, as it only portrays a singular and bias view of the story, which is very disappointing.. A loss in what could have been a very important contribution to historical representation that could have let its viewers decide their opinions on a major event in recent U.S. history.