Snowden: Film Review 


Edward Snowden, who exposed the illegal mass surveillance techniques used by the NSA on all US civilians in 2013, is a very interesting person with an incredible story to tell so it’s just a shame that the dramatisation about his life lacks a certain something and isn’t as powerful as the Laura Poitras‘ 2014 documentary Citizenfour.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Snowden, who meets Poitras (Melissa Leo) and journalists Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson) at The Mira hotel in Hong Kong to give them the evidence they need to expose the NSA story. It’s basically a recreation of the Citizenfour footage intercut with scenes from Snowden’s life before; with girlfriend Lindsay (Shailene Woodley), his different NSA/CIA jobs, and his exposure to shady business.

It’s very brave what Snowden did so I’m glad director Oliver Stone made the film so Snowden’s story can reach a wider audience who don’t watch the news or documentaries. This helps flesh out his character and his history more than Citizenfour managed. But to be honest, there wasn’t much I didn’t already know so it’s not super shocking. It’s still an enjoyable watch but it’s not exciting when you’re watching something you already know presented in an average, straightforward way, with perhaps too much focus on his relationship.

Gordon-Levitt didn’t look much like Snowden but he aced his voice completely. I was actually taken aback when he started talking cos it’s so much deeper than we’re used to. Quinto did slightly resemble Greenwald though. The performances were good all around and there is an amazing support cast including Nicolas Cage, Rhys Ifans, Scott Eastwood and Joely Richardson.

I’m sure Snowden will be better received by those who haven’t seen Citizenfour because it does tell a brilliant story and make the whistleblower a more rounded person, although I still don’t feel like I know who he really is. It just pales in comparison to the documentary because it isn’t as strong, shocking or revealing.

Originally seen as part of the 60th BFI London Film Festival. Released on Friday 9th December


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