Biopic hits Stone wall
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.