Snowden (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
December 24, 2016 by Dennis Amith
“Snowden” may be a tame film from filmmaker Oliver Stone but it’s a film that is entertaining, insightful and an eye-opener. But how you feel about Edward Snowden after watching the film, may you feel that he is a traitor or hero? That is subjective to the viewer. But yet, “Snowden” is a film worth watching!
FILM RELEASE: 2016
DURATION: 270 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH and France
COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
RATED: R (Language with Some Sexuality, Nudity)
RELEASE DATE: December 27, 2017
Based on the book by Anatoly Kucherna, Luke Harding
Directed by Oliver Stone
Screenplay by Kieran Fitzgerald, Oliver Stone
Produced by Eric Kopeloff, Philip Schulz-Deyle
Co-Producer: Rene Kock, Robert S. Wilson
Executive Producer: Max Arvelaiz, Michael Bassick, Douglas Hansen, Jose Ibanez, Peter Lawson, Serge Lobo, Bahman Naraghi, Tom Ortenberg, James D. Stern, Christopher Woodrow
Music by Craig Armstrong, Adam Peters
Cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle
Edited by Alex Marquez, Lee Percy
Casting by Lucy Bevan, Mary Vernieu
Production Design by Mark Tildesley
Art Direction by Sarah Horton, Adam O’Neill, Uwe Stanik
Set Decoration by Veronique Melery
Costume Design by Bina Daigeler
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden
Shailene Woodley as Lindsay Mills
Melissa Leo as Laura Poitras
Zachary Quinto as Glenn Greenwald
Rhys Ifans as Corbin O’Brian
Nicolas Cage as Hank Forrester
Tom Wilkinson as Ewen MacAskill
Joely Richardson as Janine Gibson
Scott Eastwood as Trevor James
Keith Stanfield as Patrick Haynes
Ben Chaplin as Robert Tibbo
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.
In 2013, Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and former contractor of the United States government, copied and leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) revealing numerous global surveillance programs run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with telecommunication companies and European governments.
The leaks would receive international attention after the material appeared in “The Guardian”, “The Washington Post”, “Der Spiegel” and “The New York Times”.
Snowden would become one of the most wanted men as the U.S. Department of Justice leveled charges against Snowden of two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property.
Seen as a criminal, dissident or traitor by many, others saw him as a hero and a whistleblower for bringing attention of the governments practice of surveillance on the public. Bringing up debates in the media of the balance between national security and information privacy.
While America wants to try Snowden, he currently is in Russia, seeking asylum.
As Snowden continues to be featured in the news, author Luke Harding would write an account of Snowden’s leak and aftermath in his 2014 book “The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man” and Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena would write the book “Time of the Octopus”. Both books would become the basis for filmmaker Oliver Stone’s biographical political thriller 2016 film, “Snowden”.
The film would star Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“Inception”, “Looper”, “(500) Days of Summer”), Shailene Woodley (“Divergent” series, “The Descendants”, “The Fault In Our Stars”), Melissa Leo (“The Fighter”, “Prisoners”, “Oblivion”), Zachary Quinto (“Star Trek” films, “Margin Call”, “Heroes”), Nicolas Cage (“Leaving Las Vegas”, “National Treasure”, “Kick Ass”), Rhys Ifans (“The Amazing Spider-Man”, “Notting Hill”, “Mr. Nobody”) and Tom Wilkinson (“Batman Begins”, “Michael Clayton”, “Shakespeare in Love”). The film would also star the real Edward Snowden.
While “Snowden” wasn’t a huge box office hit compared to Oliver Stone’s previous films, there is no doubt that the film is an eye-opener. And now the film will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
“Snowden” begins with Edward Snowden’s (portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in Hong Kong and his first meeting with documentarian Laura Poitras (portrayed by Melissa Leo) and “The Guardian” journalist Glenn Greenwald (portrayed by Zachary Quinto) and they discuss Snowden releasing classified information about the illegal mass surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA).
The film then goes back into past to introduce us to Edward Snowden and how he was originally enlisted in the U.S. Army, with hopes of getting into the Special Forces but fracturing his tibia, he was given an administrative discharge and the chance to pursue jobs in which he could serve his country.
So, Snowden applies for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and goes through the screening with Deputy Director Corbin O’Brien but despite failing the screening, O’Brian decides to give Snowden a chance and Snowden learns about cyberwarfare and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and how it circumvents the Fourth Amendment rights of U.S. citizens.
As the film carefully shows how Edward Snowden was able to get his job and grow from his job, the film also explores his personal life with Lindsay Mills (portrayed by Shailene Woodley), who he has met on a dating website.
And exploring why he resigned from the CIA and how he got his job with the NSA and his role in the NSA by planting malware in different computers that manage government, infrastructure and financial sectors in other countries, just in case, the country turns on the United States.
But as Snowden’s job leads to a troubled relationship with Lindsay, the film starts to show how Snowden became disillusioned with his job and how he would leak classified information to the media.
“Snowden” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and interior scenes are well-lit.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Snowden” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The series is primarily dialogue drive and for the most part, dialogue and music is crystal clear. Surround channels are primarily for ambiance and music but the overall soundtrack is dialogue and music-driven.
Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and Francais.
“Snowden” comes with the following special features:
- Deleted Scenes – (8:50) Featuring five deleted scenes.
- Finding the Truth – (3:55) Cast members discuss the film and the characters that they play.
- Snowden Q&A – (40:58) Featuring an interview with Edward Snowden, Oliver Stone, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley.
“Snowden” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and DVD plus an UltraViolet code.
With every story about a whistleblower, there will be those who will detest the person for ruining an industry or being a traitor to one’s country, while others will look at the individual as being heroic for exposing crimes against the people.
Edward Snowden is no doubt portrayed by filmmaker Oliver Stone as a man who honored his country, great at his job but found out about the illegal things that the NSA was doing, that Snowden became disenchanted with his work and torn about what the United States is doing to its people, its allies and also enemies. But despite being wonderful at his job, he is also imperfect and just a regular person, trying to find love and happiness while having a classified job with the government.
As the film focuses on Edward Snowden’s life from being in the military and then joining to the CIA, finding love with Lindsay Mills (and their troubled relationship, due in part because of the stress of his job) and then joining with the NSA to find out he is working on shady work that is supposed to be classified.
But watching “Snowden”, I felt for an Oliver Stone film, the film felt subdued. Fascinating, eye-opening but yet not the heavy-hitting, deep film that one would expect. But at the same time, it’s hard to fault the plot and its story because Edward Snowden is a mellow guy, he’s intelligent and while he gets angry, it’s not the angry that most people are used to seeing. If anything, Edward Snowden is what many people would say is “chill”. It’s his demeanor and style.
And you have to give Joseph Gordon-Levitt for doing a great job of of playing Edward Snowden and for Shailene Woodley, far from her years on “The Secret Life of an American Teenager”, we see Woodley in an adult role, as the emotional but caring girlfriend, Lyndsay Mills, who is tired of how Snowden puts his job first and her as second.
But for the most part, while the acting is wonderful and the film is entertaining and fascinating, the film humanizes Edward Snowden as a man of honor, a normal human being who wants to have a love life but a job that requires him to do a lot of things that he finds as wrong. He’s a kind man and definitely not egotistical.
But yet, he leaked classified information that no doubt put the United States in a bind. And while the film is no doubt pro-Snowden and shows what Snowden had done is good for the people, we don’t see the counter to this. And the film makes it hard for anyone to hate on Snowden, considering the media has painted him as opposite of what the film presents him.
Did Snowden do the honorable thing? This is no doubt subjective and it’s an unending debate.
While viewers of this film may be inclined to see Snowden as a hero, one will want to read this December 2016 article from Edward Jay Epstein of the Wall Street Journal.
The film looks and sounds wonderful on Blu-ray and you also get three special features, including a Q&A which features filmmaker Oliver Stone, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley but you also have Edward Snowden taking part (via live video during the Q&A) in the session as well. And I found this session to be an eye-opener as well.
Overall, “Snowden” may be a tame film from filmmaker Oliver Stone but it’s a film that is entertaining, insightful and an eye-opener. But how you feel about Edward Snowden after watching the film, may you feel that he is a traitor or hero? That is subjective to the viewer. But yet, “Snowden” is a film worth watching!
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