Director: Oliver Stone
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo
Release Date: December 27, 2016
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 8.5/10
Disc Rating: 8/10
Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone (JFK, Born on the Fourth of July) tackles the most important true story of the 21st century. Snowden, the politically-charged thriller reveals the incredible untold personal story of Edward Snowden, the controversial figure who exposed shocking illegal surveillance activities by the National Security Agency and became one of the most wanted men in the world. A hero to some and a traitor to others, the provocative story of what led him to that fateful decision makes for one of the most compelling stories in recent history.
Based upon a series of real events occurring over the course of numerous years, ‘Snowden’ takes viewers deeper into the life of Edward Snowden (Gordon-Levitt) as he recounts the events that led to his decision to reveal top secret government information to the masses, jumping between the timeline from the infamous meeting with the team of reporters and media outlets he has entrusted to reveal the information. Beginning many years prior with his military career which was cut short due to an unforeseeable injury that subsequently led to his next position deeper within the government ranks, the film loosely covers various important events throughout the course of both his career and personal life which inevitably led to the revelation of numerous top secret documents by Snowden’s hand; a monumental event that is now surely common knowledge among most.
Directed by Academy Award Winning filmmaker Oliver Stone from a script he additionally co-wrote with Kieran Fitzgerald which was based upon book(s) by Anatoly Kucherena and Luke Harding, Stone does a fantastic job at the helm of ‘Snowden’ guiding this true story along beautifully and with a fitting layer of tension present throughout. The film also owes its share of credit to the talented folks who comprise the cast including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Rhys Ifans, Tom Wilkinson, Scott Eastwood, Timothy Olyphant, Joely Richardson, Ben Chaplin, and Nicolas Cage, along with a number more, nearly all delivering notable performances in each of their respective roles, particularly Gordon-Levitt who is mesmerizing in his wonderful portray of Snowden.
‘Snowden’ is a smart, well crafted and occasionally quite tense exploration into the life of the infamous Edward Snowden and the years and events which inevitably led to the crucial event that rocked our nation, along with a more intimate look at the man himself and the relationships he cultivated along the way. As opposed to taking the more common and trivial route of merely reconstructing the events in chronological order as many biographies might, the film instead opts for revolving everything around that key moment when Snowden passed along those critical files to select members of the press and jumps between a number of key points in his career, while always returning to that same moment which helps to keep the pace more frenetic and additionally saves some of the slower moments from ever becoming dull. Legendary director Oliver Stone guides this true story along beautifully with a fast paced intimacy and heart always at the forefront, and his experienced guidance is only further complimented by an incredibly talented cast including Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is simply phenomenal in his portrayal of Snowden. The subject matter it covers, and simply the film as a whole probably won’t be of much interest to some folks, yet for those at all intrigued by the life of Snowden as well as fans of talented filmmaker Oliver Stone and/or any of the impressive cast, I would definitely recommend giving the movie a shot when you have the opportunity to do so. It’s a well done, solidly acted and enthralling film that’s certainly worth a watch.
Overall, ‘Snowden’ offers a detailed look into the life of the well known man whose actions created quite the stir (to say the least), and manages to tackle a number of events over the course of numerous years in a smart and consistently enthralling (albeit somewhat biased) manner that only furthers its impact and also allows for a thoroughly enjoyable movie that never becomes tired or uninteresting. Guided with an obvious passion by director Oliver Stone and featuring a powerhouse cast led by an absolutely stellar performance from the incredibly talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt whose portrayal of Edward Stone is outstanding. I would highly recommend giving ‘Snowden’ a whirl if you’re a fan of Stone and/or Gordon-Levitt’s work in general, or simply appreciate a well crafted true story that should have no trouble keeping you glued to the screen for the majority of its duration.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Snowden’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.40:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks fantastic as a whole and provides a sharp, clean and detailed presentation from start to finish with no notable faults to be found within. It holds up admirably even during the heavily populated and/or darkly lit sequences, always making certain that everything occurring on screen remains clean and gorgeous at all times, never becoming indiscernible or negatively affected. Overall, this is a top notch high definition video presentation from Universal that holds up in every way and should easily please the masses.
The Blu-ray release features a lossless 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This lossless multichannel soundtrack delivers a consistently smooth, detailed and occasionally somewhat aggressive audio presentation. It regularly takes full advantage of all five available channels with the score and plenty of crowd chatter and other surround elements such as the thoughts of Edward Snowden jumping between the various speakers, and more; always making certain that dialogue which might happen to be occurring simultaneously never becomes distorted or rendered inaudible. Overall, this is a solid 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack that provides a perfect complement to the film and shouldn’t disappoint.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Snowden’ includes a few worthwhile extras. Included on the release are a number of ‘Deleted Scenes’ from the film (running approximately 9 minutes in length altogether), in addition to a brief behind the scenes Featurette ‘Finding the Truth’ (running approximately 4 minutes), and a ‘Snowden Q&A’ featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley and Oliver Stone’ (41 minutes).