The Gustavian Weekly

Snowden remains controversial on the big screen

By Kristi Manning - Staff Writer | November 18, 2016 | variety

Snowden received mixed reviews for the directing of Oliver Stone, but actor Joseph-Gordon Levitt was praised.

Snowden received mixed reviews for the directing of Oliver Stone, but actor Joseph-Gordon Levitt was praised.

Before 2013, most of us had probably never heard the name Edward Snowden. Now when we hear it, we recognize it immediately. Edward Snowden is a former Central Intelligence Agency employee who made national headlines in 2013 for leaking classified National Security Agency files to British newspaper, The Guardian.

Snowden was directed by American film director Oliver Stone, who is best know for his films which focus on American political controversies of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Some of his best known works are Nixon (1995) and JFK (1991) which both had multiple nominations at the Academy Awards, with JFK (1991) winning best picture.

Snowden is based off of the books The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena.

The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the title character Edward Snowden.

The film also stars other big name actors including Shailene Woodley as Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills, Zachary Quinto as journalist Glenn Greenwald, and Nicolas Cage as a former U.S. Intelligence official. Edward Snowden himself agreed on the production of the film in May 2014, and even involved himself in the process of the film’s creation.

The movie promises everything that a dramatic, biographical thriller is expected to incorporate, including secrets, hiding, and of course some romance.

For those who don’t know much about Edward Snowden, this fast-paced epic reveals Snowden’s story in depth, including how he became a CIA employee, why he leaked NSA files, how he was able to pull off the dangerous and thrilling task, and why he believed he needed to reveal the NSA documents to the public in order to help his country.

The story starts off with  Snowden as a member of the United States army. He is discharged after he broke both of his legs, but still wished to help his country.

He was offered a position at the CIA and worked for them until he discovered illegal surveillance NSA files and exposed them to the public in 2013.

After exposing the files, Snowden was pegged as one of the most wanted men in the world, known to some as traitor, but to others as a hero.

Snowden has received some mixed reviews because of Stone’s direction. Some feel that he left out aspects of the story that would make the film more compelling. However, Gordon-Levitt has been praised for his performance of the title character Edward Snowden.

He portrays Snowden in an authentic way that generates insight into the internal and external battles that Snowden faced when finding the invasive and illegal surveillance activities of the NSA, and how he decided to expose them to the world.

While the film has received a mix of positive and negative reviews, reception at the box office has been lower than expected. The film made approximately $31.3 million worldwide since the film’s release on September 16, 2016, falling short of their $40 million budget.

With Edward Snowden helping out with production, the film follows Snowden’s real life experience to a tee. If you’re a fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Snowden shouldn’t disappoint, however, if you’ve seen and enjoyed some of Oliver Stone’s other films such as Nixon (1995) or JFK (1991), Snowden falls short by comparison.

Much like how Edward Snowden’s actions of leaking NSA files sparked controversy for some individuals and acclaim among others, there will be audiences that find Snowden captivating and stirring, while others will be displeased with the direction and intentions of the film.

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