Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Edward Snowden

Reel Reviews: Snowden film worth the surveillance

Film based on whistleblower Edward Snowden unfolds in keystrokes and mouse clicks.

  • Sep. 23, 2016 1:00 p.m.

Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a disillusioned employee of the American National Security Agency.

During his time with the NSA, Snowden discovers that the government is spying on its own citizens, recording conversations, reading emails, storing it all in numerous data warehouses.

Snowden decides to quit his job and tell the world his secrets, turning him into a hero for some and a villain for others, whereby he must seek asylum.

We say, “Snowden would have been better shorter.”

TAYLOR: It’s not that the film is particularly long at just more than two hours. That seems fair for a serious and true cyber-drama. However, I found Snowden a bit odd – the film not the man. Overall, it looked and felt like a TV program.

Director Oliver Stone, whose work I sometimes love, sometimes am disappointed by, may have wanted his film to appear TV-like. I can think of numerous reasons for this, but none could be more valuable than a proper visual aesthetic.

HOWE: I don’t know what you are on about. I thought it was filmed like a movie should be.

I normally complain about the switch between using regular cameras, cell phone footage or hand-helds, yet this time I found it worked pretty well. There were a few moments that gave me edge-of-the-seat tension, or maybe that was because the movie is two hours long that I needed to pop to the loo.

TAYLOR: The story is the interesting part, except that it unfolds in keystrokes and mouse clicks. There are moments of tension and more of a human element than I had expected. To answer the question of discerning film buffs, “is it too much of a political statement?” I think the answer is no, but in this case, the facts themselves provide the appeal. Criminal government actions that go unpunished beget criminal civil actions that go unpunished, or do they? The B-story, the “everything else,” is a little dull.

HOWE: I was surprised at how many stars, so to speak, that are in Snowden. I certainly wasn’t expecting one of them in it (I won’t spoil it by saying who it is, but his performance is as bad as always. He hasn’t been on the screen for a good few years now and let’s just say he isn’t the best of actors).

The rest of film is packed with some good actors: Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans and Shailene Woodley, just to name a few.

I know I am not a fan of Gordon-Levitt, and I felt this was one of his better roles. After about 10 minutes, I forgot that it was him, so I must congratulate him for that.

TAYLOR: Stop picking on JGL.

HOWE: I’m not knocking him this time. He did well.

TAYLOR: He was fine in this, like he is fine in everything else. This is not to say he hasn’t been better, as has Stone for that matter. Maybe it’s just because we’ve seen a lot of movies lately where people’s lives unfold on screen. Maybe this is Stone, speaking plainly.

Howe gives Snowden 3.5 Rubik’s Cubes out of 5.

– Taylor gives it 2.5 mainframes out of 5.

Reel Reviews with Taylor and Howe appears in the Morning Star every Friday.

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