Veteran director Oliver Stone turns his lens on Edward Snowden, the man branded in equal measures traitor and patriot when he revealed the American government’s secret surveillance of its own people. Tackling similar terrain to the documentary Citizenfour, in Stone’s hands this film plays more as a tense action thriller than political expose.
The film opens as Snowden (Joseph GordonLevitt) is holed up in a Hong Kong hotel room with filmmaker Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo) and journalists Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson), about to release the information which will put his life at risk and change the entire world’s understanding of cyber-spying. As he tells them his story, the film cuts back and forth to reveal how Snowden gained access to the information, how he managed to get it out and why he felt the need to go public. In the process, we get to know Snowden more as a person, not just a name, and understand the moral conflict that brought him to his life-changing decision.
Gordon-Levitt captures Snowden’s aloof, reserved quality and yet also manages to bring a vulnerability and strength of character to a man who is now either celebrated or vilified in the press.