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Snowden

Year: 2016
Production Co: Endgame Entertainment
Director: Oliver Stone
Writer: Kieran Fitzgerald/Oliver Stone
Cast: Joseph Gordon Levitt, Shaelene Woodley, Rhys Ifans, Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo, Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Olyphant, Scott Eastwood

It's good to see Oliver Stone return to the kind of material that made him great – politically charged, challenging commonly peddled narratives about history and anti-establishment – even if it's not quite as good as the stuff from his heyday. Even though this is a very contemporary issue, it doesn't feel as pulse-poundingly urgent as JFK did and that was made three decades after the fact.

It's also a curious thing to want to tell Snowden's story because he himself was adamant when the news broke that the story was about the government abuse of power, not him.

And despite the real life Snowden being seemingly very intelligent and having an extraordinarily high tolerance for self-sacrifice for his principles and what he saw as the greater good, his story is a little bit about just being in the right place at the right time.

The only real drama in the real story was him deciding to go public with what he'd learned – other than that it's just a guy wanting to serve his country, meeting a girl and falling in love and then finding out the government can spy on everybody through digital means.

That's not to say both Joseph Gordon Levitt and Shailene Woodley as his girlfriend Lindsay aren't great in their roles – Levitt does a great Snowden, really reminding you of the real guy with his face and voice.

But the reviews that compare it to Laura Poitras' Citizenfour are right – there's nothing really revelatory in the story that documentary didn't cover, and even though it was a documentary it felt like more of a thriller than Snowden ever does. Everything else is done with perfectly adequate performances and directing, but it all just feels a bit like window dressing leading up to the action that made Snowden a historical figure.

The script also seems a bit too deferential to Stone's presence at the helm – there are a few too many meetings with shadowy officials who talk in poetry in secret locales when most of what happened was probably done by boring, tie clip-wearing public servants who were all tiny cogs in a vast and faceless machine.

And Stone himself, despite his skill and reputation, still can't help himself from the odd ham-fisted gesture, like when Levitt dissolves to a picture of the real Snowden at the end, closing his laptop and gazing contentedly out the window as if to say 'my work is done'.

Snowden the man still isn't as interesting as what he did, and even though it's still Stone doing what he does, he's done it better.

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