5 November 2016 | rubenm
Classic, clean-cut film about a fascinating subject
Edward Snowden is one of the most fascinating Americans alive, so it's no wonder his life has been made into a movie. After the documentary Citizenfour, it's already the second film featuring the famous whistle-blower. Citizenfour focused on the days Snowden spent in a hotel room in Hong Kong, where he invited two journalists who published the news about the massive surveillance of millions of people. Oliver Stone's new film takes a different approach and shows us Snowden's back story. His life is shown in flash backs from the hotel room scenes. What made him decide to basically give up his comfortable life and spend the rest of his days in exile? Stone shows how Snowden slowly changed from a patriotic army soldier into a concerned citizen. When he and his girlfriend Lindsay discuss the war in Iraq, shortly after they have met, they disagree. He defends the war, and ridicules Lindsay's liberal views and her participation in anti-war protests. She tells him: 'America is founded on the right to question our government'. Years later, he uses those exact words to explain and defend his whistle-blowing.
The relationship between Snowden and his girlfriend gets relatively much attention in the film. On the one hand because a love interest is always nice for a Hollywood film, but on the other hand also because it is important for the development of Snowden's mindset. His work for the NSA influences their relationship, not only because they have to live abroad, but also because it seems even Lindsay's e-mail and online conversations are being tracked and placed under surveillance. Is this the final straw that makes him decide to take bold actions?
What bothered me about the film is that it is a bit too clean-cut. The intelligence agencies are full of giant screens and slick technology, there are some romantic scenes, and the film looks overall very smooth. It's a rather classic biopic, without much cinematographic added value. For a subject as controversial as the NSA-leaks, and a for a film maker with a reputation such as Stone, that's a little bit disappointing.