Oliver Stone’s biopic Snowden came out on September 16, 2016 to mixed reviews, even though it smashed the highly anticipated Bridget Jones’s Baby in the box office. This film tells the story of Edward Snowden, the famed whistleblower who exposed the NSA and USA’s government for spying on their own citizens in 2013. The film stars Joseph Gordon Levitt as Ed Snowden, who was absolutely suburb in this role. Never before have I seen him disappear into a character this much.
The real strength of this movie was the cinematography. It feels that with contemporary films, less thought is put into shots. In movies I’ve seen over the past few months, there were no shots or angles that seemed to really enhance the plot or connect to the idea of the film. This, however, a film all about surveillance, used wide angles and nontraditional angles which helped to make it seem as if you were seeing something you shouldn’t have been, as if you were peeking into a world, unseen. There was also a lot of transitional moments that were really clever, such as a camera lens turning to an eye or Snowden walking out of a dimly lit room as he leaves the NSA into a bright light. This, paired with a strong score by Craig Armstrong, made this an exciting and enthralling viewing experience.
The one thing I would have changed? The focus on the relationship in the script. Although I’m a sucker for romance, something about this connection seemed irrelevant to the rest of the story. Sure, the relationship was used as a tool to show Snowden’s increased anxiety and the way he began to pull away as he learned more about the NSA, but at the same time, the focus didn’t really add anything for me. In fact, it sort of took away from the strength of the rest of the film. I’m not suggesting that they should have re-wrote history to make him single or anything that extreme but I do feel that some of their scenes together, especially the ones that exemplified how little chemistry the two actors had, should have made their way to the editing room floor.
And, without giving away the manner that they handled the masterful ending, I will say this: for a movie about being watched, the last shot where Edward Snowden is looking thoughtfully out the window should have concluded with him breaking the fourth wall and looking directly into camera at the audience.
Featured image courtesy of Open Road Films