With Snowden, writer/director Oliver Stone dials back the bombast and delivers one of his best films in many a year. When you start with a true-life story this fascinating, you really don’t need to overstate and Stone keeps his stylistic touches to a minimum and focused on the story of the real man, Edward Snowden.
Snowden was a young and prodigious computer geek that got involved in the US government network of spies and its American citizen electronic scrutiny. He got pulled in, chewed up and spit out when the morality of the domestic spying regime overwhelmed him. He ended up paying a very heavy price for his ethics.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is outstanding as Snowden and it’s almost eerie how close his portrayal comes to the real person (especially brought to light in the film’s coda where the real Edward Snowden makes an appearance). Rhys Ifans is also very good as one of Snowden’s mentors Corbin O’Brian. The scenes where Ifans literally fills the screen with an overwhelming presence are particular arresting.
As with all good dramas based on real events, Snowden is a great introduction to a story that will have ramifications for years to come or will it? When you read the details of the actual events, it’s very interesting that the story hasn’t really developed that much real world outrage.