Privacy. Review of Snowden (Topic)

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Privacy. Review of Snowden

Image The exposure of the American intelligence services in 2013 is so recent that information about the central figure of this process, a former CIA and NSA employee Edward Snowden, often pops up in the news. Whether it's the Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour: The Snowden Truth, or a few books based on those events, the response to mass surveillance is not so much a reflection on what happened as part of the story itself.

The whole world watched the Snowden case almost live, and this fact makes his story so well-known and understandable that the need for an artistic interpretation "hot on the trail" seems doubtful. Probably, no one yet has a clear understanding of the meaning of the actions of Edward for the world: their consequences have just begun to reveal themselves. Therefore, the maximum that could be counted on when watching the film adaptation was a one-sided and fairly straightforward plot about an idealist who decided to take an incredible risk to tell the truth. Such a film was shot by the well-known leftist and harsh criticism of the United States, director-conspiracy theorist Oliver Stone .


His craving for strong characters, focusing on the motives of their actions, characters and experiences resulted in the hero's two-hour ordeals exactly until the moment he presented the illegally obtained information to the world. Strictly speaking, " Snowden " is a prequel to the hype we recently followed in the news feed.

Unfortunately, the real-life political thriller lost its sharpness when it was diluted with the artistic methods of the director. The playing special agent Joseph Gordon-Levitt , along with Stone , show us how an ordinary American guy goes from endless faith in his country to legal, but not moral, betrayal.


The narrative in " Snowden " is divided into two parts - episodes in a hotel in Hong Kong a few hours before the publication of materials and multiple flashbacks that explain to the viewer not so much the events themselves, but the character who was at their center. We see a young patriot unfit for service in the special forces, his acquaintance with a girl, numerous tests and interviews, undercover work, blackmail and participation in illegal surveillance.

To dilute the "professional" shots, digressions now and then interfere with the general outline, demonstrating the relationship of Ed with Lindsay Mills ( Shailene Woodley ). Their function is to make Snowden's inner conflict even more personal. The first disputes about the possibility and ethics of surveillance become the cause of their quarrels. Then Ed personally feels the fear of being under constant supervision: an open webcam, candid pictures of a girl on her hard drive, wiretapping of phones. He tries to explain to her that one cannot be guided by the principle “I have nothing to hide,” but until recently he does not name the reasons for such unexpected conclusions.


At the same time, the surveillance mechanisms are demonstrated in the film too simply and naively, with an eye on the mass audience. The phrase "It's like searching in Google , but not by sites, but by personal data" gives a basic understanding, but oversimplifies the whole scheme. However, the semantic simplification in this case is covered by visual ingenuity: how amateurishly the essence of the surveillance mechanism is conveyed, it is just as vividly depicted. Only the footage of Ed 's epileptic seizures can be compared to the perfectly filed surveillance scenes. They decorate the picture along with the bouncy soundtrack, deliberately avoiding unnecessary dramatization. It can be seen that Stone was trying to shoot modern drama, but the classic presentation of the story of a lone hero and genre cliches still remind us, that the author of the picture is one of the veterans of Hollywood. She is a little old-fashioned, and this property of her will once again convince the attentive viewer that, perhaps, mastodons like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and all the same Oliver Stone have already removed their main masterpieces, but they, like no one else, they know how to make an interesting mass cinema on important topics.


Of course, Snowden's moral dilemma - betrayal against truth - is decided in favor of the latter. The hero is represented by an ideological fighter who has put everything at stake, right down to his own life. The director uncompromisingly supports and approves the actions of a technical specialist, creating a completely patriotic, not critical film for himself. There is no other point of view in the film. The exception is one chief from the CIA, who supports surveillance, but delivers a speech that is very seditious for an intelligence officer, ending it with the message“A patriot is not obliged to agree with the government in everything”. It is this phrase that is key, if not for the real Edward , then for the character Joseph . A sensible boss would know how a future whistleblower would interpret his words ...

A subjective look at the story of Snowden , focusing on trying to forge an idol looks like the most vulnerable point of the whole picture, even though the director's position seems humanistic and correct. Nevertheless, everything that does not fit into the scheme necessary for the filmmaker is touched tangentially or completely out of brackets. On the other hand, the maximalism of 70-year-old Oliver in relation to America today is his right as an American citizen, and the desire to share his opinion with the whole world is the right of an eminent director.


The only thing that does not raise any questions is the game Gordon-Levitt . Without hysterical scenes, he manages to create the portrait of the person we have all seen from the webcast. Appearance is not the main thing here - it is more about manners and a holistic image, but in some skillfully chosen angles, the effect of photographic similarity is actually created. In short, we observe a situation similar to Michael Fassbender's performance of the role of Steve Jobs . Only Joseph should hardly hope for a nomination from the Academy Award .

" Snowden " is a fascinating biopic, through the prism of which one can look at the phenomenon of political and biographical cinema in general. In the history of cinema, there are many examples of such films, which have become masterpieces because of their artistic value. But this is not the case. Oliver Stone wanted to make the project another of his manifesto, but to become such, any film must be fresh and avant-garde enough. There is no freshness in it, but this will not prevent the viewer from observing the loudest political scandal of recent years again or for the first time.

The Topic of Article: Privacy. Review of Snowden.
Author: Jake Pinkman