Snowden is a well-crafted and eye-opening narrative of issues of global surveillance and government accountability in the wake of 9/11. It recreates the overpowering surprise felt when ex-NSA employee, Edward Snowden, exposed the National Security Agency (NSA)’s operations of collecting personal information from millions of people.
Playing Snowden, Joseph Gordon-Levitt once again proves that he is a high-calibre actor with his moving portrayal. Gordon-Levitt is also backed by an equally strong cast, including Shailene Woodley as Snowden’s girlfriend, Rhys Ifans as his CIA recruiter, and Zachary Quinto as investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald. Under the brilliant direction of Oliver Stone, the film creates a perfect balance between a well-paced story and the emotional struggles that Snowden experienced before seeking asylum in Russia.
Stone employs heavy usage of flashbacks to depict Snowden’s travels across the globe doing counterintelligence work, up until finally disclosing the secret activities of his job to The Guardian in 2013.
Although the film expresses the tension of Snowden’s emotional journey, comic relief came from his occasional interactions with a fellow NSA employee who, at least for a brief time, amused with their use of sign language. On the other hand, one of the more suspenseful scenes depicted Snowden’s clever idea to use a Rubik’s Cube to conceal a chip containing stolen classified files.
The film also explores how Snowden’s personal life is affected by the secrecy of his job, which strained the relationship with his girlfriend Lindsay. He is portrayed as torn between his personal life and the passion he has for his work. Like everyone else, Snowden had his own life outside of his work — a fact that tends to be overlooked.
What Snowden did can be seen as right or wrong, depending on what political or moral ideologies you believe in. While his actions garnered as much scorn as they did praise, this film demonstrates the man’s purpose to reveal the truth rather than to conceal it.