What was once the hot potato, is now the hot topic. And even though it feels odd to see a Biopic being made on such recent events, the story of Edward Snowden remains one that is very relevant to people worldwide. I have not seen the previous theatrical release based on similar events, so have no gauge on that in terms of quality comparison. But let’s have a quick look through this for your consideration.
So just to give everyone a heads-up on the events in here, Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordan Levitt) is secretly meeting with a team of investigators from the U.K. publication The Guardian, ready to provide them with secret information from the NSA that he feels needs to be known by the public. During these events we flash back through his life, from his exit from the Army, to his early beginnings as a member or contractor for the NSA in America. And his views on this secretive work being for the better of the American people get seriously challenged by what he sees going on, and the methods being used.
Oliver Stone takes the directorial helm of this film, and having quite a strong career in political features, you will know what to expect if you are familiar with his previous work. What is surprising here right from the very start is just how toned down and un-flamboyant the film making style is. The introduction is plain and simple, there is very little score carrying along the emotions, and the colour palette is surprisingly normal. It doesn’t feel like a big studio release at all, and in fact more like a small Indie development.
If this was a Biopic about a band or an actor, then that would certainly raise soem questions. But for the content being discussed here, it works exceedingly well. There is very little to distract from what is being presented to the audience – and that is the information. The focus remains strongly on who Snowden was, what kind of character he was, how he reached where he got to, and what caused his shift in beliefs in what he was doing. They achieve the transitions between the particular stages very well, by using key moments which shake thing around in order to transfer to the next setting and set of circumstances.
On the more personal level we see his relationship with his girlfriend Lindsy Mills (Shailene Woodley), someone who is very caring about Snowden’s quiet personality, butalso kept in the dark in relation to what he does for his job. I think some of the early romance scenes are rather flat and overly standard in their portrayal, but the troubles which begin to surface later on add more depth to their struggles within their relationship. Appearances by Nicholas Cage, Zachary Quinto, Timothy Olyphant, and Melissa Leo, add to a pretty solid cast which gives just enough for the events to maintain the interest of the audience. Levitt leads the force with his performance which is quite excellent.
As for how deep the film goes in relation to Snowden’s life, it isn’t providing any material that a basic search would deliver. So some may be let down by how much of the content is common knowledge to them. For me, it tied together many of the stories I hd heard over the years, and present them in a sequential format that allows you to see how one thing led to the next. That may sound like a basic requirement for a Biopic (hint, it is), but it would have been easy to lose the audience in the Cyber-technology jargon, so credit where credit is due here. And on that note, they present the technical aspects is very understandable formats, if you’re worried of getting lost in the details, worry not.
For a Biopic, the essential item to nail down is to present the events and people in a way that is both informative, and interesting. “The Imitation Game” is one of the modern masterstroke examples of this. And even if “Snowden” doesn’t delve into the nitty-grity details, what is presented is very solid. It shows the sobering reality of just how un-secure the security of our digital lives really is, and probably will remain to be so long as reasons of threat exist. And also how everyone involved took incredibly dangerous risks to achieve what Snowden wanted to. As a snow globe of those critical events, this film illustrates them in a way that isn’t being biased, is not fear-mongering, and is not trying to cover it all in expensive special effects and glorifying orchestral tones. It is simple, and to the point. And very much recommended.
Thanks for reading!