Film review: Snowden — ‘Hagiography’

Oliver Stone gets clattered by both the left and the proper. He was attacked by the very first for Nixon and W — also type to Tricky Dick and George Dubya — and is now being attacked by the second for Snowden. Also sort to the traitor who sprayed US surveillance secrets about the globe. They have a point. Partiality is the heel in this Achilles film even though to this Achilles film’s credit, it also outruns, as storytelling, the tortoise forebodings we might have had about a accurate-life plot so cerebral and cyber-centric.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Edward Snowden with a passable physical likeness, a skilful vocal one and the puppyish alertness of a college swot all of a sudden shot — self-shot — to the leading of the globe notoriety class.

For the film’s initial half he’s sweet, effectively-which means and in really like (with Shailene Allegiant Woodley, swapping YA kitsch for true-life morality drama). He’s schooled in CIA and NSA craft by sinister whisperers — Rhys Ifans, doing Clint Eastwood, and Scott Eastwood, carrying out (surprise) ditto — before conscience coaxes him to rebellion. A clever graphics sequence, mid-movie, presents US snooping as a pattern of whizzy, sparkling trajectories circling most of Cosmos Earth.

It is correct: who can doubt it? But then those, as well, could have truth on their side who accused Snowden of carelessness in risking lives by blowing covers — and of thoughtlessness about who may well benefit from this information spill, among states hostile to freedom. (In one of which he now lives.)

The Snowden antagonists do not get a voice in the movie. Stone could know how to reduce among time-zones and land-zones: we shuttle cleverly among a Hong Kong “present”, with Ed holed in the Mira Hotel alongside reporter Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and documentarist Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo), and a US previous that pieces itself collectively in extended flashback. The director also cuts cannily amongst moods: the intimate music of Snowden’s adore life in fugal counterpoint with the Snoop-topia fever dreams of Langley and Washington.

But the film has no idea, or no inclination, when it comes to cutting between pro-Ed and anti-Ed. Snowden ends up as hagiography, pure and dimpled. It even gets Ed himself to fill the screen at the finish with a glowing smirk, as if to say: “Yup, I changed history.” He may possibly have. He might even have enhanced it. Then once more, he may possibly have hazarded others’ security to generate a planet in which future leaders will sustain Snoop-topia with an even a lot more fanatical care that leakers do not leak and the wicked (to them) do not Wiki.

Section: Arts

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