Opinion: In A Political Climate As Tight As This, Snowden Is Useless

How Hollywood’s newest version of the most prevalent whistleblower fails to break any new ground?

Zack Hage, Entertainment Editor

Coming off of Obama’s recent clemency kick, NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden has requested to come back into the US. However, with Snowden, the new Hollywood thriller based on him, his comments now seem deliriously out of touch.

Directed by political intriguer Oliver Stone and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley, Snowden is a heightened retelling of one of the most infamous events of our era, in which an NSA worker leaked classified information about how the government was spying on its citizens. This activated cases against laws like the Patriot Act, and shrouded the U.S. government in controversy for the rest of the year. During the ordeal, Former Deputy of Defense, Ashton Carter even called the incident a “Cyber Pearl Harbor.”

It’s obvious to see how a movie adaptation wouldn’t have the same colossal effect on our nation; especially years later. Because of this, Snowden has to aim in a lot of other directions. The movie expands what we knew about the relationship between Snowden and his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills before everything occurred and details the escalating rise of responsibility Snowden has to handle before his high-profile departure. Acting-wise, the movie accomplishes this well, with performances that capture the seriousness and patriotic ambiguity of the issues at hand. Joseph Gordon Levitt even revealed during an Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit, that Snowden’s parents stated “Thank you, you really captured him,” to him during the premiere.

Elsewhere, the movie lacks. The film is way too long, which is aggravating considering I’ve seen documentaries on the matter that cut around 40 minutes off of this film’s runtime, and are way more concise. I also struggle to see who the film’s audience is for. People who have researched the Snowden topic have seen superior films such as CitizenFour, and the movie’s marketing appeals more to the Jason Bourne crowd, when it should be to those looking for a competent political thriller. The film’s ending, a collection of quotes spanning from Donald Drumpf to Bernie Sanders, show just how unfocused the film is.

The film’s cinematography is also top-notch, but falters when placed against some ridiculous moments. I simply can’t take a great shot seriously, when a quote as generic as, “The modern battlefield is everywhere.” comes out of the mouth of one of the characters. As the movie lingers on and on, moments like these show how it simply becomes harder to appreciate what’s good, as the bad becomes more apparent.

In the end, Snowden’s biggest flaw is its structure. The one moment it attaches mass significance, feels forced and falls flat, not giving a wholly representative picture of Snowden’s motives for leaving the country. This will likely confuse the average movie goer, and when Snowden needs all the help he can get to go back into the Americas, this movie will not help his case.