It is important when you see a film made by a well-established director like Oliver Stone for the first time to do some research first, because in doing so you can mentally prepare yourself for what you’re about to see and hear on the big screen. Why am I saying this? It’s because Oliver Stone is a very patriotic director and a very opinionated director, much of his works have all been on American figures or events that comment on American society. Given this in mind, a biographical film on Edward Snowden would have Oliver Stone hooked like fish to bait.
The film is very unlike any other Oliver Stone film as the choice of shots is odd yet satisfying, this is the first-time Oliver Stone has used digital cameras to shoot a film and he has made a great transition towards digital filmmaking along with cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle. Every shot is very crisp and clear and while at times can feel out of place from the previous shot, the shots that are framed well massively outweigh the shots that aren’t.
Joseph Gordon Levitt plays Edward Snowden who does a fantastic job in highlighting Snowden as first and foremost a patriot to America. His performance along with a screenplay crammed with detailed information of events questions what exactly being loyal to your country means. The film established right from the beginning that Snowden is set on serving his country which I feel add complications to audience members who see this film thinking that Snowden was a traitor, it can make for an unpleasant viewing experience if your own opinions are being challenged by Oliver Stone, not only that the film also attempts to sway your views so you are thinking what Oliver Stone is thinking.
The strongest element of the film for me, more than the leaking of NSA documents is the effect Snowden’s work has on his relationship with his wife Lindsay Mills played by Shailene Woodley, a very surprising casting choice for me, I would not expect Shailene Woodley to take up a role like this. When these two characters first meet, they are two people with different political views, in the real world this would create some tension yet Oliver Stone finds a way of making their differences quite adorable to watch (It does sound strange I know). I was smiling at the dialogue between the two because it wasn’t delivered boisterously it was calm, humorous and the tiniest bit flirty.
For any paranoid viewers of Snowden, do not be afraid. I was worried that I would be leaving the cinema concerned about any governments that could be watching me, I’ve seen people put plasters or blu tack over their webcams just in case but to those people I would say this film does not leave you feeling paranoid, the people who made this film know it’s delicate subject and handled it with the case that it requires.
What I can say about this film is that this is not as stylised as Stone’s 1994 film Natural Born Killers which I was a little disappointed. I remember watching Natural Born Killers think that it was a very interesting way of presenting a films narrative and I wanted to see more of it. What I got was a very heavy focus on political commentary that outweighed the stylised work we have come to expect from Oliver Stone. Also, this film does drags itself through the events mainly due to the detailing of the narrative. The film suffers from its strong points being its weakness. This does not feel like a 2 hour 14 minute film.
With a film crammed with information, its is important that the film also presents this information so that the viewer can easily digest it, unfortunately the film makes such a desperate attempt to simplify this information, that it becomes over complicated and starts to become dialogue that could have easily been simplifies for those who know little about computer and how programming works.
There is a nagging sensation through the duration of this biographical drama that it trying too hard to impress its audience. The film is like a show off at a party, it wants your attention so badly that it is willing to do anything, no matter how impressive or stupid, to get your attention. I have already explained how the cinematography is impressive, but what I find is that the patriotism is so in your face, it’s as if the film is shouting at you to agree with it.
Overall, Snowden offers us a visually presentable film filled with a detailed narrative that could be argued as being way to patriotic to the point where we already get the message a third of the way through the film. Again, before seeing this film, I strongly urge you to do your research on Oliver Stone and even watch one of his two previous films, that way to can react a fair conclusion to whether or not you are willing to put up with the over the top patriotism.
Final Result: 6/10 – Above Average
Have you seen Snowden? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story