(Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
While working for the NSA and CIA, Edward Snowden discovers that the United States government is illegally spying on its citizens.
Rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity.
Viewer Appeal: Mature Teens, Adults.
What do you really know about Edward Snowden? That he was a traitor to the US government, or that he is a brave man who risked his life to expose illegal activity by the government? Whatever you believe, it’s probably based on news reports seen over the past few years, and it’s probably not the full story.
Snowden tells the story of Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) from his perspective. How he was a patriot, training for Special Forces until his leg was shattered. With that dream gone, he turned to the CIA, interviewing with Corbin O’Brian (Rhys Ifans) for the chance to serve his country…and because it sounds really cool. At any other time in history, he’s told, he would have been turned away, but the war is in cyberspace, and the CIA needs hackers and computer geeks like Snowden.
Once accepted, Edward goes to the CIA training center, where he dazzles O’Brian with his computer skills, and meets Hank Forrester (Nicholas Cage), a CIA veteran who’s been put in a back room with relics from the past. He and Edward bond over the Enigma machine and the love of computer programming. He also joins a dating website called “Geek-Mate” where he meets Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley), a cute photographer with a liberal mindset. Where Edward trusts the government and the choices being made, Lindsay questions and doubts.
Shortly afterward, Edward is sent to Stockholm on assignment. While there he is introduced to Gabriel (Ben Schnetzer) who shows Edward how the government can basically spy on anyone, gaining access to anyone’s laptop camera, personal email, SMS messages and such. Later, after being assigned to the NSA, he sees how attacks can be made in the Middle East and observed remotely, with no concern for collateral damage or feeling for the loss of innocent life. These practices, along with other observations and experiences, are disturbing to Edward. He loves the United States, but is horrified by the lies and lengths the government will go for power and superiority.
Snowden is a story told by mixing the past with the present. As Edward tells his story to journalists Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo) and Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) in 2013, we are taken back to points between 2004 and 2013, seeing what he experienced and why he was led to do what he did. Co-writers Oliver Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald chose an effective way to tell this complex story in an understandable and sequential manner.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is fabulous as the quiet and conservative Edward, who seems to choose every word carefully, and is convincing as a man who decides that leaving his family and the country he loves in order to expose illegal activity by the government, is the most important good. As important as Edward Snowden is to the story, Lindsay Mills is just as important, as their relationship magnifies the internal struggle he dealt with for many years as he carried this information alone. The connection between Shailene Woodley and Gordon-Levitt was flawless, as they displayed not only love, but pain and tension they experienced due to the secrets he was required to keep.
If you rent or purchase this DVD, there are several special features you will want to watch. There are the obligatory deleted scenes, as well as a short documentary type feature. The most interesting, is a question and answer session with Edward Snowden, Oliver Stone, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Shailene Woodley that gives insight into who Edward Snowden is and the process taken to make this movie. It’s certainly worth watching.
Let's Talk About It
Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:
• What surprised you about Edward Snowden?
• Snowden brings to light the issue of the media spinning a story without giving their audience the whole story. How might your perception of Edward Snowden have been different if the media had told the entire story back in 2013?
• What is something you would like to change if you were in the position to do so?
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