Now, most likely almost everyone in America has formed their opinion of Edward Snowden by now. If you see him as a hero and believe that his actions were just, then this movie will likely reinforce that opinion in your mind. If you think he is a traitor… well, than you probably won’t be going to this movie anyway. Snowden was created by Oliver Stone, a director known for his very vocal political beliefs. Although compared to some of Stone’s previous work his bias is comparatively subtle, at least until the last half an hour or so.
The eponymous role is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, Looper), and I must admit it took a while for his interpretation of Snowden to grow on me. He altered his voice in order to sound more like Edward Snowden, which sounds very odd at the beginning of the movie, but I found that he grows into the role as the movie goes along and by the end he seems a perfect fit. Edward Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsey Mills is portrayed by Shailene Woodley, known for her roles in The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent series. Although she plays the role well, I found that the movie actually gave her too much screentime, at times focusing on her and Snowden’s relationship at the expense of the actual political substance of the film.
Separate from the fact that the film’s plot is derived from real events, it mostly operates as a more-or-less standard political thriller film. It has all the same tropes; a nice, relatable protagonist, ominous government programs, heroic underdogs, and so on and so on. This is why I actually prefer Laura Poitras’ documentary on Snowden- Citizenfour. Because the story of Edward Snowden is such a well-known and incredibly important story, I found the real-life Edward Snowden to be much more convincing than an actor playing him, even an actor as good as Gordon-Levitt. I suppose in my mind I was asking, as I watched the film: “Why do you need to make a dramatization of what happened to Snowden when the man himself can tell you in much more detail?”
So if you view Edward Snowden in a positive light than Snowden is an adequate political thriller which reinforce your existing views of him. If you view him in a negative light, than why are you still reading? But unless you feel the burning need to watch Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s take on being Edward Snowden (which I would certainly not hold against you), than I would recommend a viewing of Citizenfour instead.