Biopic hits Stone wall

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - WEEK IN MOVIES -

SNOWDEN (M)

Di­rec­tor: Oliver Stone (Pla­toon) Star­ring: Joseph Gor­don-Le­vitt, Shai­lene Wood­ley, Rhys Ifans, Ni­co­las Cage, Melissa Leo, Tom Wilkin­son Ver­dict: He couldn’t keep a se­cret. But could he make a dif­fer­ence?

IF you do re­call the name of Ed­ward Snowden, it is for his con­tro­ver­sial ac­tions in June 2013 when he be­came the largest solo leaker of clas­si­fied doc­u­ments in his­tory.

(Ju­lian As­sange might have grabbed the glory when the Wik­ileaks wave hit, but he was the front­man for a large team of op­er­a­tives.)

Us­ing high-level ac­cess gained through a ca­reer work­ing for the likes of the CIA and NSA, Snowden un­leashed a dig­i­tal blizzard of data prov­ing the US Gov­ern­ment is run­ning wide­spread sys­tem­atic sur­veil­lance on their own cit­i­zens.

Ever feared a fu­ture where a gov­ern­ment can look you up and lock you up with just a few clicks of a mouse? Then Ed­ward Snowden’s ac­tions de­clared that fu­ture may be more wor­ry­ingly closer than any­one could imag­ine.

The film kicks off with Snowden (played by Joseph Gor­don-Le­vitt), some Guardian jour­nal­ists and a doc­u­men­tary film­maker camped in­side a Hong Kong ho­tel room. The in­for­ma­tion flood­gates are about to open, and no one is sure about how the world will re­act.

It is a com­pelling way to open a pic­ture, but strangely, Snowden rarely reaches such pulse-rais­ing peaks again.

This is largely be­cause di­rec­tor Oliver Stone is too pre­oc­cu­pied with dou­bling back to his sub­ject’s for­ma­tive years as a covert con­scien­tous ob­jec­tor.

In­ter­est­ingly, Snowden spent most of his ca­reer as a will­ing par­tic­i­pant in sur­veil­lance ini­tia­tives which were any­thing but strictly le­gal.

Not just a gifted an­a­lyst and pro­gram­mer – but a con­firmed pa­triot as well – Snowden naively as­sumed his ac­tions were for the greater good. Surely those higher up the in­for­ma­tion-shar­ing chain felt the same way?

No need to pon­der what the an­swer to that ques­tion turned out to be. Nev­er­the­less, Stone’s movie takes far too long for the ide­o­log­i­cal light bulb to fi­nally be switched on above the head of Ed­ward Snowden.

The un­avoid­able prob­lem with Snowden as a movie is while it does a fair job of de­pict­ing the lead-up to the big splash made by its hero, scant at­ten­tion is paid to the rip­ple ef­fects caused by his un­prece­dented ac­tions.

The movie also sneak­ily skirts around the fact that ul­ti­mately, Ed­ward Snowden didn’t change the world at all. He merely changed his ad­dress.

Snowden now lives in ex­ile some­where in sub­ur­ban Moscow, as a pro­tected and po­litely pro­pa­gan­dised guest of that cham­pion of free-think­ing whis­tle-blow­ers ev­ery­where, Vladimir Putin.

One day, this still-un­fold­ing sit­u­a­tion might make for one hell of a movie. As long as Oliver Stone doesn’t se­cure the rights.

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