In 2013, Edward Snowden became the most-wanted man in the world when he revealed the existence of US Government programs that gathered cellphone date from millions of customers and monitored the online activity of users on popular social media websites. From a hotel room in Hong Kong, he tells his story to documentary film-maker Laura Poitras and reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewan MacAskill. This film follows his evolution into one of the most controversial figures of the modern age.
2016, Color, Rated R, 2 Hrs 14 mins
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo
Directed by Oliver Stone
With so many Hollywood films covering the wonders and pitfalls of the tech industry, it was only a matter of time before someone told the story of Edward Snowden. His theft of classified documents and exposure of illegal surveillance activities perpetrated by the highest levels of government is something people still discuss and debate to this day. Oliver Stone tells a masterful tale of Snowden’s evolution from Army Private to high-level analyst and consultant. While many agencies downplay his level of access and ability, there is little doubt that he was privy to some extremely sensitive and volatile information, and had the skills to compromise pretty much any piece of technology currently in use.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt provides an amazing portrayal of Snowden. I would not be surprised to see him nominated for an Oscar. The viewer even gets a chance to compare him to the genuine article as Snowden himself makes an appearance near the end of the movie. Shailene Woodley turns in an excellent supporting performance as girlfriend Lindsay Mills. And kudos to Nicholas Cage for his brief appearance as a guru-like computer scientist. His philosophical discussions with Snowden offer some insight into his transformation from a conservative government servant to one of the most famous whistle-blowers of all time.
If you’re looking for an accurate history of the events surrounding Snowden and the NSA’s surveillance initiatives, you’ve come to the right place. Checking the facts presented in the movie against my own research, it looks like Oliver Stone has done his homework. After all, the best stories are sometimes true. For a well-presented account that both educates and entertains, I highly recommend this film.
Image quality is mostly good but sometimes takes on a documentary look that appears intentional. Flashback sequences are told in varying color palettes that range from pale to vivid and often mimic the environment they’re shot in. Hawaii is especially colorful with rich natural hues. Detail is a bit soft at times but all-in-all, this is a solid transfer.
Audio is nearly all dialog-centric but some effort is made to create life-like ambience. Surround effects are subtle but they add to the presentation in a good way. There isn’t much of anything for the sub to do and the encode could perhaps benefit from a little more bass.
The main bonus feature is a 41-minute panel discussion hosted by Matt Zoller Seitz of Rogerebert.com with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley and Oliver Stone. A few deleted scenes and an extended trailer are also included.