SNOWDEN stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and is written and directed by Oliver Stone. The script is based on the books The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena. Written by
Open Road Films
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SNOWDEN--Blowing The Whistle On Government Malfeasance, And Paying The Price
By far the biggest story of U.S. government malfeasance was uncovered in 2013, when a young man named Edward Snowden leaked out to the media and the world at large that his employers at the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, besides spying on other countries, and terrorist organizations around the world, were also spying on all the electronic communications of everybody in the United States itself. These revelations made him a man without a country, and a fugitive charged under the Espionage Act of 1917 for allegedly revealing classified information that compromised the security and the lives of U.S. surveillance agents all over the world. It also made him perhaps the most dangerous whistleblower of government overreach in history, or at least since Daniel Ellsberg. And unsurprisingly, it was Oliver Stone, the director best known for his critiques of American political behavior with PLATOON, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, JFK, and NIXON, who stepped into the breach of this, maybe the most important political story of our time, with SNOWDEN.
Based on Luke Harding's book "The Snowden Files" and Anatoly Kucherena's book "Time Of The Octopus", SNOWDEN stars Joseph Gordon-Leavitt as a young man who, both as an intellectual conservative and a patriot, worked his way up into the highest circles of the U.S. intelligence community during the first decade of the 21st century and the War On Terror, which involved less about stopping terrorism with military force but with the force of electronics and surveillance. This seems all good and fine to him, and he develops further programs to assist the intelligence community until, as he looks up the data, twice as many communications have been monitored from within the U.S. itself as have been from even our most feared legitimate adversary, Russia. Much of the story is told in flashbacks and flash-forwards, as Gordon-Leavitt relates his story to documentary filmmaker Laura Poitros (Melissa Leo), journalist Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto), and journalist Ewan MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson) in a hotel in Hong Kong (later detailed by the real-life Laura Poitros in her Oscar-winning 2014 documentary CITIZENFOUR). We see how his life, especially with his girlfriend (Shailene Woodley) and his problems with epilepsy, comes unwound, and how he must go on the run after his revelations are published in the British newspaper The Guardian, which Greenwald and MacAskill worked for. He winds up at Moscow International Airport just a few days after his story hits the Internet in June 2013, and in exile, a fugitive from what passes for American justice in the 21st century.
Rather surprisingly, given his penchant for doing extremely controversial movies in his career, Stone was initially fairly reluctant to touch the Edward Snowden story in any way, shape, or form. But Kucherena (Snowden's real-life attorney in Russia) and Greenwald themselves convinced that it would be good for him to detail the story. Stone then agreed to do it, with Fitzgerald assisting him in the writing of the screenplay, and the result is one of the great films of 2016. Gordon-Leavitt is a near dead-ringer for the real-life Edward Snowden, who is seen at the end of the film detailing why he did what he did and why coming back to America would not result in his getting a fair trial. Although Stone had been well-known for doing films with quick-edged MTV-inspired montage sequences, including his notorious 1994 film NATURAL BORN KILLERS, he avoids doing much of that in SNOWDEN, instead concentrating on the inner workings of Snowden's work, and how much harm he may have been creating in the name of National Security, as opposed to merely keeping us "safe" from any more 9/11-type terrorism.
The subject matter that is broached by Stone in SNOWDEN, even with a relatively limited amount of violence and nudity (compared to other films of Stone's), is not easy to watch; nor is it necessarily easy to grasp in a lot of ways how the American people themselves, in the panic that followed September 11, 2001, basically acquiesced and allowed such mass surveillance to take place. Given the revelations in the early 1970s about Ellsberg's Pentagon Papers scandal, and those involving the FBI's Counterintelligence Program against anti-war protesters and civil rights activists, one might have thought that the people would have learned. But speaking truth against government power is a dangerous thing to do, and at the same time the right one; and SNOWDEN, its subject, and its maker, show it better than perhaps anyone else in Hollywood could ever do.
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