As far as movie-going went, this weekend I went from the sublime – QUEEN OF KATWE – to the disturbing. The second film I saw was SNOWDEN.
SNOWDEN, the new movie about whistleblower Edward Snowden who revealed the extent of American and international cyber-spying by leaking the story to journalists, exceeded my expectations. I found myself hanging on every word.
Snowden is played beautifully by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Rhys Ifans plays Corbin O’Brian, his instructor at a CIA training facility in Virginia. O’Brian is not entirely honest with Snowden, who doesn’t quite realize what he’s gotten himself into.
SNOWDEN snowballs. It starts out kind of slowly and just keeps rolling along, gathering steam. A colleague calls Edward Snowden “Snow White,” and it’s rather fitting, since he doesn’t realize the extent of how far government agencies are spying on people. The audience will be shocked as well. Someone sitting at a desk in Switzerland can see into the room where you’ve left your computer on? Uh-oh!
What elevates this movie beyond the usual techno-thriller is the relationship between Snowden and Lindsay Mills, played by Shailene Woodley, an actress I first became aware of when she was in the American Girls colonial movie FELICITY. Snowden has to leave his Lindsay if he’s going to warn the world about what’s going on with the NSA and the CIA and a whole host of other organizations and companies. He can’t tell her much of what is going on or why it’s so disturbing to him. At times she thinks he’s paranoid, but still, her loyalty to him is just plain beautiful to see. The two are a great onscreen couple, so the knowledge that Snowden will have to leave her leads you to sit there feeling a great big sense of “ouch” – but keep watching.
Oliver Stone is the director, and as usual he didn’t disappoint. Be on the lookout for the way that Snowden gets quite a collection of classified info out of the bunker-like facility where he works, too. This is a movie worth seeing. If you’re ever in a position where something bad and hidden could use a nice dose of the light of day, don’t be afraid to blow a few whistles yourself!