Snowden (2016)
A Review By Ben Hunter
3½ Out Of 5 Stars


Once fled the scene of conception, I charge this film with “cooking the books” to tell a particular narrative.


Are the police targeting a specific race of people?  Is this so rooted in hatred that it spans back further than we’d like to fathom?  Is a particular candidate to be the leader of the free world and superior of our great nation held by a different set of standards than the rest of?  All causing some of our citizens to express a distasteful interest in our country?  Such distaste displayed on our professional football fields, now overlapping into our professional basketball courts, soccer fields, and now on the high school levels as well, influencing our younger minds. 

Completely rooted in one cause. 


How far will love for one’s country take them?  And when is the line crossed in such acts?  Leading to questions of legality and how we must conduct ourselves as individuals and as a society. 

Director Oliver Stone takes us into his latest narrative displaying the “patriotism” of one Edward Joseph Snowden (nicely portrayed, high pitched accent and all, by the talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt who’s earned my full attention since 2012’s The DarkKnight Rises), who stole 1.5 million classified documents, vital to the nation’s security, that he deemed was incriminating of our country’s government, showcasing how our privacy and civil liberties as citizens are at risk. 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden in Oliver Stone's latest: Snowden
Or was he indeed “patriotic”?  I again put that in quotes because, after seeing the film, it’s clear that Stone, being a part of one side of the political aisle that comprise just about all of the industry that is Hollywood , was out to tell a certain story with this particular film.  Being of the influence of the left, Stone showcased Snowden as the true hero who will do whatever it takes to protect his country, even if it means breaking the law and going against his country “on the surface” to save said country for the greater good.  He can do no wrong, he did no wrong, and President Obama should grant Snowden’s request for pardonableness with the film’s debut. 

In anticipation of the movie and it’s positive light shed on the protagonist, the House Permanent Select Committee submitted a 36 page, 230 footnoted, classified document revealing Snowden’s behavior in the events depicted in the film and beyond of what the film couldn’t fit in its 2 hour run time. 

In the executive summary of the report that was released to the public, apparently, Snowden was not a whistleblower just doing what he felt was right in the situation.  Had he revealed the information through the proper authorities or chain of command instead of taking the documents and bolting out of the country to reveal the information on his terms and not America’s, he’d be deemed a whistleblower with certain protection rights granted him through the laws already on the books.  Not having to flee the country at all. 

The majority of the documents he took had nothing to do with interests of individual privacy.  But rather pertained to military, defense, and intelligence that weakens America, already causing tremendous damage to national security through Snowden’s actions. 

Snowden lied about events that pushed him over the edge to break the law.  Two weeks after a fiery email exchange with a superior about computer updates, Snowden started massively downloading classified information from NSA networks.  He exaggerated and fabricated information thus revealing a pattern of intentional lying:  washing out of basic training for the army due to shin splints and not a broken leg, never having a high school degree equivalent when he said he did, or padding his resume and stealing test answers to embellish his entry level technician duties with senior advisor status at the CIA and NSA.  Or pre-dating his Director of National Intelligence director James Clapper “breaking point” story by 8 months when the discovery of his massive downloads was official. 

All bringing to light that the nation is susceptible to betrayal from within and more work is needed for our national security. 

The U.S. House of Representatives, in bi-partisan effort, and in addition to the report outlined above, heavily stressed the refusal of Snowden’s request for pardon from the president in a letter to the White House, for “it would severely undermine America’s intelligence institutions and core principles, and would subvert the range of procedures in place to protect whistleblowers.” 

Shailene Woodley as Lindsay, the girlfriend, civilizing her man and keeping things together.  
While watching the movie, you would think all this that I just mentioned is a complete fabrication.  A weak effort to cover the backsides of the workers in the government’s intelligence committees, simply pointing the finger back at Snowden.  But we’re led to believe the opposite, that Snowden’s a hero.  Nothing from the opposing view is presented and no hint of presenting the facts for us to decide on our own is given.  This is the biggest middle finger an artist can provide its experiencers with this subjective medium. 

Let me be clear this is not a poorly told narrative, it’s just a heavily skewed one where it’s heavily laced with the charge of  “cooking the books” to tell a particular narrative, much like the presidency of Barack Obama.  So it’s hard to find credit with this film, especially with the looming fact that I disagree with it's lead character portrayal, lurking in the midst.  Though it is entertaining I will say.     

As a veteran, and with a history of depicting political/historical characters on the big screen (JFK, George W. Bush; both films I didn’t care much for) Oliver Stone, flexes his skill and credibility in Hollywood to tell a sequential depiction of a “patriotic hero” for audiences to enjoy and be thrilled early this autumn season.

The movie being a sea of veterans helped with this depiction.  Rhys Ifans and Nicholas Cage played their parts with ease, along with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as our navigator through the “nation’s mud”.  The enemy is all around us which is why secrecy is security and vital for survival. 

I just wish more variety was depicted in Hollywood to help relay such messages.  Which Stone briefly touched upon when Snowden meets his girlfriend (Shailene Woodley, whom I could feel her pain and understand her feelings in the matter) and thus she brings him to see “the light, and the hero recognizes “the truth”, keeping the largest microphones of America occupied by what they feel should be the only side of the aisle never to be dropped in a hip-hop manner after dispute.    

All hail Edward Snowden, a true American hero (shakes head)! 

Biography/Thriller, 134 Minutes, R
Based on the Books By: Anatoly Kucherena and Luke Harding
Screenplay By: Kieran Fitzgerald & Oliver Stone
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zacharay Quinto, Scott Eastwood, Tom Wilkinson, with Rhys Ifan, & Nicholas Cage

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