Apparently, it is Joseph Gordon-Levitt Month.
We’re going to talk about Snowden which is a shitty reboot of the delightful and astonishing Citizen Four. I liked the movie, and have deep political opinions about the whole thing, but from that first sentence and the titles, you can tell where your intrepid author is at about this.
JGL is once again, great. He does a very solid Edward Snowden impression, to the point that when the real Snowden shows up, there is a moment of uncanny valley. The story is decent and well displayed. Much of it is either true or at least needs to be true for the narrative that the movie is trying to tell. These are not truth.
Snowden is complicated
and is more complicated because of Oliver Stone. Stone is known for a bit of a political leaning, and a bit of screaming very loudly whatever opinion he has about what is going on as loudly as he can directly into your eye holes. In a movie with a brilliant, subtle performance by an actor who does great work, we also have characters that loom over him, Big Brother style, Nic Cage at his most unhinged and unrestrained, and stereotypes about nerds. Stone deeply believes that Snowden is a hero and a patriot.
And that’s my major problem with the movie. I think that it’s more complicated than that. I think that Snowden did the right thing, at least from my political perspective, but I also understand the arguments against him. He did have an effect on the world, and people working with his data may have not been as responsible as they could have been with it. I can appreciate that it is a heroes story, but a little nuance, a little doubt, a little anxiety afterwards would be greatly appreciated.
When you have Nic Cage giving the kid a pat on the back, after an unhinged performance, you gotta go back and look at it.
In the long run…
Just watch Citizen Four. It’s a better film. It has better moments of tension. Snowden is great background material, and can be added to your understanding of the superior film, but trusting it too much would be like trusting the US government to not spy on American citizens after 9/11. Too political? Yeah, maybe. I’ll just shut up now.