Release Date: September 16, 2016
Director: Oliver Stone
Writer: Kieran Fitzgerald, Oliver Stone, Anatoly Kucherena, Luke Harding
Cast: Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jaymes Butler, Robert Firth, Rachel Handshaw, Christian Contreras, Parker Sawyers, Rhys Ifans, Ken Thomas, Nicolas Cage, Michael Benz, Shailene Woodley, Tom Wilkinson, Joely Richardson, Nicholas Rowe, Timothy Olyphant, Erol Sander, Suzie Gilber, Antoly Kucherena, Valentine Kuitko, Bhasker Patel, Olga Koda, Patrick Joseph Byrnes, Christy Meyer, Scott Eastwood, Keith Stanfield, Stephanie Simbeck
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 134 minutes
Production Company: Endgame Entertainment, Vendian Entertainment, KrautPack Entertainment, Open Road Films
Genre: Biography, Drama, Thriller
Country: France, Germany, USA
Budget: $50,000,000 (estimated)
In the art of filmmaking every production comes in many shapes and sizes. For me the stories that are true have the greatest impact at times. Knowing those events actually took place in the real world adds an exhilarating excitement to the overall experience. So if a film addresses actual history, one may expect the material to be transparent in its message. The viewer should know what really happened without playing a guessing game of what really took place. That was the biggest problem with Snowden, which was directed by Academy Award winner Oliver Stone (Any Given Sunday). It’s surprising that with such a talent, and a phenomenal lead in Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a more streamlined film couldn’t come to fruition. Instead it’s an extremely long exaggerated truth where the lines blur between fact and fiction.
Early on the film lets you know that this is a dramatization of events between the years of 2004 and 2013. It may not be clear right away, but this possibly ruined the whole film. From this point on you can’t take the material seriously. Whether something happened with grandeur or not had no effect, because it’s not completely validated. There’s a small chance this pill may have been easier to swallow if this were a fictional biography, but it’s not. Instead of dramatic scenes that have weight, it was more like seventy-six trailers of faulty suspense back to back during the allotted runtime.
Now Gordon-Levitt is a fantastic actor. He always gives a superb performance, but this is by far one of his worst. I don’t know what happened. The way he played Eric Snowden is like trying to give life to a rusty shovel that’s been buried for eight years. That’s how he moved, talked, and carried himself on screen. To each there own, but he had the appearance of not one individual but six; ranging from all the inconsistent mannerisms, the style of clothes, and his entire makeup. In addition, it was difficult to take him or the story seriously, because you’re not clear on what’s true or false.
Plus there was about an hour of the story that felt completely unnecessary or was just not interesting. The relationship that he had with his girlfriend, and later his wife, Lindsay (Shailene Woodley) is a true testament of the wasted screen time. It was hard to label their relationship, with how much the film jumped around. Over and over the film jumps back to this relationship that has no love or passion, just arguments over little nuances the public cares nothing about. Snowden is supposed to be about Eric Snowden and him leaking classified documents to the press. It contains that but doesn’t spend enough time where the heart of the film should be, which is horrible. The whole film is exhausting. This could’ve easily been ninety minutes just covering the facts, but instead it reached too far and got lost.
It’s so lost it’s like the director took his notes for the material with a blindfold and headphones on. He missed the mark entirely when trying to cast the role for Snowden. What’s even more ridiculous is towards the end of the film you see brief clips of the real life person, and the comparison between the actor and real life person couldn’t have been more opposite. It’s like he was bragging about how poor of a job he did. There is nothing appealing about Snowden, other than a few nice scores to keep a scene up beat. Then again, when it happens repeatedly on a continual set up you’re begging for it all to be over very soon. Textbook boredom.