Sunday, May 28, 2023

‘Snowden’ captivates with chilling accuracy, solid acting


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*There will be spoilers, but if you’ve read the news since 2013, not really.

“Snowden,” Oliver Stone’s film adaptation of Edward Snowden’s leak of government surveillance secrets, paints a bone-chillingly accurate picture of the underbelly of the American intelligence system.

Carried by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s uncanny portrayal of Snowden, strategic cinematography and the absurdity of the true story,  the film masterfully walks the audience through the years and secrets leading up to Edward Snowden’s information leak in 2013 without a dull moment.

The key selling point of this movie is Jospeh Gordon-Levitt. It’s almost creepy how well Levitt adopted Snowden’s quirky mannerisms for the role. From the voice to the gestures, there were undeniable Snowden traits in every line delivered by Levitt. The supporting acting left plenty to be desired, however. Specifically, Shailene Woodley as Snowden’s long-time girlfriend Lindsay Mills was deplorable. Not only does Woodley look about 15, her acting is just non-existent. Like in most things, Woodley just squeaked her lines with no emotion, letting down a pivotal role in the story.

Maybe I’m biased as journalism major, but I feel the roles of reporters Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo), Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Ewen Macaskill (Tom Wilkinson) were under-developed. It seems, based on the relevance they have as the reporters who broke Snowden’s findings and the weight of the chosen actors, that maybe their roles were further developed, with plenty left on the cutting-room floor. Who knows, maybe there’s another “All the President’s Men” or “Spotlight” in store for these unsung heroes.

Though I typically hate him and his acting with the white-hot passion of 1,000 suns, Nicolas Cage had a weirdly satisfying role as Hank Forrester, Snowden’s mentor in the CIA. It’s Forrester who kind of fosters the idea of governmental corruption in the young whistle-blower’s mind, so–somehow–a ten-minute Nick Cage cameo actually furthered the plot dramatically.

The film’s angles and overall cinematography were also dramatic and appropriately sullen considering the Orwellian nature of the story. While they added some edge and probably developed certain characters for impact, screenwriters Oliver Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald stayed admirably true to the true story of Snowden. While they married a few clips of the real Edward Snowden and real media coverage at the end, it seems as though they could have used more reality escapes throughout the film for a cleaner plot.

As a whole, “Snowden” is a solid film with primarily good acting and a notable social and political importance.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Olivia Ladd email

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