Oliver Stone’s Snowden is a furious editorial. Following, for ten years, the Booz Allen Hamilton contractor-turned-leaker, the movie traces the arc of a principled idealist who became jaundiced by the murky ethics of espionage. Part cyber-thriller, part melodrama, Snowden is humorous and gripping. Some of its most effective points, however, like Snowden’s time in Japan, fudge the facts—the USA could never pull the plug on Japan’s infrastructure. Moreover, in the service of its pace and message, but to its artistic detriment, Snowden avoids complicating its hero’s image by not incorporating or exploring his documented riffs on guns, libertarianism, video games, and sex. Dropping his voice and donning glasses, Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a good job of channeling his already pensive demeanor into an impression of Edward Snowden; Shailene Woodley makes for an engaging, realistic love interest; Nicolas Cage has a funny cameo as a slighted has-been; Rhys Ifans is terrific as an amoral government agent; Melissa Leo plays Laura Poitras; Zachary Quinto does a rabid-dog impression of Glenn Greenwald; and Ben Schnetzer is riveting a laid-back NSA operative. The final scene, however, goes over the top, so much so that Snowden comes off wearing a halo. The Gospel of Snowden would be a fitting alternate title for this film.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White