<script async src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js"></script> <!-- Showbiz Portal Bottom 1 300x250, created 10/15/10 --> <ins class="adsbygoogle" style="display:inline-block;width:300px;height:250px" data-ad-client="ca-pub-1272644781333770" data-ad-slot="2530175011"></ins> <script> (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); </script>
Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Oct 4, 2016

Snowden Movie Review: Absorbing Film About The Controversial Man Who Exposed All The Illegal Surveillance Activities Of The CIA And NSA

AS A FILMMAKER, Oliver Stone has an impressive if eclectic filmography, ranging from his Vietnam war movies (“Platoon”, “Born on the 4th of July”, “Heaven & Earth”) to historical biopics (“JFK”, “Alexander”, “Nixon), two “Wall Street” movies), crime movies (“Natural Born Killers”, “Savages”, “U-Turn”) and assorted flicks like “The Doors”, “Any Given Sunday”, “Salvador”, “World Trade Center” and “The Hand”.

His latest film, “Snowden”, is about the controversial computer whiz who used to work with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and later leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) disclosing various global surveillance programs. Because of what he did, he is considered either a whistleblower, a traitor or a patriot. The movie is not as good as other reality-based films as “All the President’s Men” and “The Social Network”, but it’s definitely engaging in its 2 hours and 15 minutes running time.

The film starts with Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon Levitt in another real life character after “The Walk”) meeting for the first time in Hong Kong in June 2013 the people to whom he will divulge his exclusive story: Melissa Leo as docu filmmaker Laura Poitras, and Zachary Quinto and Tom Wilkinson as “The Guardian” journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill. From there, we learn more about his past through a series of flashbacks.

We learn about his training with the Army in 2004 where he broke his legs. This leads to his applying at the CIA and meeting the man who will become his mentor, Corbin O’Brian (Rhys Ifans, so unrecognizable from his role in “Notting Hill”). We then witness his personal love story with his girlfriend, Lindsay Wills (Shailene Woodley of “Divergent”), that helps make the film more than just a procedural about revealing government anomalies. He asks Lindsay to join him to Geneva while doing some work. A CIA agent (Timothy Olyphant) asks him to track down Al Qaeda money but Snowden is too shy and it’s Lindsay’s charm that help him befriend a banker named Marwan. Through their surveillance, they spy on Marwan’s family, raking muck on his daughter’s boyfriend that led to the girl’s attempted suicide. They later cook up a DUI charge on Marwan to be able to blackmail him further. Snowden is disgusted by what happened and resigns from the CIA.

He moves to Tokyo and later to Hawaii, where Lindsay thinks his life will improve after he’s diagnosed with epilepsy. But he later learns that a computer program he has put up is being used for even more intrusive levels of surveillance. This leads to his subsequent disillusionment with the government’s oppressive surveillance operations; and eventually leads to his decision to reveal to the public the extent of how the U.S. government illegally interferes with the computers and cellphones of not just other world leaders but even ordinary, private citizens.

Stone himself wrote the screenplay with Kieran Fitzgerald and you’d be amazed at how they structured it to make sure a number of subplots are properly covered, making it a touching love story and also a bit of a thriller and a politically provocative film. So many actors give good supporting performances here, from the journalist to Ifans to Woodley as the woman he loves to Scott Eastwood as Snowden’s NSA superior to Nicolas Cage as a senior outspoken employee who opens Snowden’s eyes about the real motives of the CIA.

But it is Levitt who carries the movie through and through, underplaying his portrayal to approximate a real life character who goes through a lot of moral anguish, aggravated by the fact that he can’t talk to anyone about the personal dilemma he’s experiencing for the safety of his loved ones. In the final sequence, when Levitt is being interviewed and the real Edward Snowden (now 33 years old and living in Russia on political asylum) replaces him on screen, the effect is quite chilling and touching. We seriously want to applaud him for all the revelations he has done, risking his life and that of his loved ones in the process.

Stone takes a very subjective stance here, like what he usually does in his other movies (e.g. “JFK”). For him, there’s no doubt that Snowden is a hero who might too good to be true, definitely not a traitor or a fugitive as some quarters would like to portray him. The film also comes out as scary horror flick showing how the U.S. government has become like Orwell’s Big Brother where the NSA can sift through personal emails and phone calls, and even activate any webcam on your laptops even if it’s off. It shows that intelligence agencies are more after protecting their own secrets than its citizens. This movie is definitely more absorbing viewing than “The Fifth Estate”, which is about another controversial man, Julian Assange, of the news-leaking website WikiLeaks.