Alright Oliver Stone, you win this one.
Most of you don’t know about my aversion to Oliver Stone films. Platoon was fine. JFK was good but only because it boasted the second part of my two-man crush, Kevin Costner. I could go on, but that’s another article for another time…
First and foremost, I urge you to see the Academy Award winning Documentary, Citizenfour. It follows Edward Snowden during the time in which he sat with journalists and divulged all of the intel he had acquired about the U.S. Government. It’s a very straightforward look at the man, but more importantly the act of whistleblowing on what our country had been doing for years.
While Citizenfour focused more on the risk and scale of what Snowden was doing, Snowden chooses to shine the spotlight on the man. Something like this is necessary in attempting to fully understand just what it was that went into his decision making process. How did he arrive on the path that he chose in order to arrive at this place of no turning back?
Stone chose to highlight Snowden’s life through flashbacks which allows the audience to see him as he begins to be promoted within the government, slowly peeling back the layers of what truly makes our country’s cyber-intelligence tick. While these moments were important, there was also a perfect balance struck by Stone to focus on his relationship(s) outside of his job with his girlfriend, friends, etc. fully bringing to the forefront just what was at stake with his final decision. I must say that I was impressed at the amount of time they take on Snowden as a human. I ultimately understand that was the overall agenda of this film, but it truly helps the viewer see him in a completely different light, a more fully developed light. This aids in trying to understand why he did what he did because you are able to actually see what he had invested into making this decision.
This was not something he just did on a whim or even took lightly for that matter. This was years and years of being pushed towards this outcome based on the latitude our country took with the ability to listen or track people. Baring that knowledge each day and still trying to function as a normal human being is absolutely incredible and the film shows Snowden’s attempts at compartmentalizing this concept but ultimately failing at the expense of his relationship with his girlfriend, however, the movie also provides the opposite side of the coin by showing the victories as a result of this sort of intelligence.
I find myself enjoying Snowden more long after I have left the theater because it is the sort of story that sticks with you, grows in your mind, causes you to ask yourself what would you do and what would it cost? To me, that is the mark of a great film, to find a place in your heart or mind and stay there for longer than its runtime. Snowden did just that and even moreso because it highlighted the inner struggle of a man who was not only good at what he did for a living, but actually loved doing it and despite having that gift was forced to rationalize the improper use of it for the good of the country on a daily basis to the point where he could no longer go on.
Taking a step down from my soapbox, I am curious of the Oscar implications with Snowden. Joseph Gordon-Levitt did a fantastic job capturing the complete picture of the man. Oliver Stone actually did a solid job of directing such an important film that could’ve easily taken a left turn and become preachy. Understanding that this year is most certainly a “down” year for cinema, it could easily sneak into the Best Picture category with Stone getting a Director’s nomination (won’t win) and Gordon-Levitt getting a Best Actor nod. Time will tell, but I would love to see this film be recognized in that way.
I urge you to see Snowden, however, I still haven’t worked out in my mind whether or not you should see Citizenfour BEFORE or AFTER Snowden. If I were pressed, I would say to see the documentary first and Snowden second because while the doc gives you a better look at the actual information the film shows the man behind that information and what it took to get him to the place of alerting the public at the cost of his future.
SNOWDEN – 4 Garys
Also see: Citizenfour