Snowden Review


Make america great again.

It’s a popular soundbite from one of the least popular american presidents of all time but, despite public appearances to the contrary, even he’s not stupid enough to believe this is actually possible.

The world’s a very different place to that bygone age of the american dream, and it’s never coming back – especially not in an era when america actively demonises rather than lionises its true patriots.

Patriots like Edward Snowden.

Now, I know this name and the general gist of what he’s done, but I wouldn’t be able to go into any detail about his exploits.

All of those news stories about blowing whistles and covert surveillance were just far too boring for a guy like me to engage with.

So I didn’t.

Thankfully, Oliver Stone knows this world is full of fools like me, so he’s turned Snowden’s life into a film with famous faces in it and everything.

And having watched Snowden, I now feel even more foolish than before – who knew that was possible?

Like most patriots, Edward Snowden believes in serving his country.

But while his mind is willing, the flesh is a little more reluctant – ending Snowden’s military career before it’s even begun.

Being a bright lad, he sets that willing mind of his to serve his country in other ways, and before you know it he’s working for the CIA and NSA.

Snowden is your typically geeky computer hacker type, only he’s traded believing in conspiracy theories for believing in his country – unlike his girlfriend Lindsey Mills, energetically played by Shailene Woodley, who’s your standard bleeding heart liberal.

Of course, it doesn’t take long working in the places he does for Snowden to start questioning his beliefs.

Which leaves Ed with a potentially treasonous dilemma; be true to your country and your fellow countryfolk, or be true to the government of your day.

Much as I’d like to say otherwise, Snowden is not a great film.

It’s not bad either though – the problem is that the source material is so incredible that it’s an almost impossible task for any film to live up to this truth.

Some of the events and actions that take place simply beggar belief, with one webcam scene in particular bound to spark a rise in the sale of very opaque masking tape.

Turns out the CIA and NSA can monitor anyone and everyone they want – whenever they want – with little more than a click of a button.

And though these events take place on the other side of the Atlantic, our own situation has just become even worse thanks to the largely unheralded passing of the so called ‘snooper’s charter’ last month.

Which makes Oliver Stone’s new film compulsory viewing, if only to introduce people to the liberties our governments are taking with, well, our civil liberties.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is steady as Snowden, as are the supporting cast that also includes Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo, Tom Wilkinson, Nicolas Cage and Rhys Ifans.

But Snowden doesn’t quite work as entertainment for me, which is why I’ve added the Ed Snowden shaped Citizen 4 documentary to my watch list.

As for making america great again, love him or loathe him Trump just ain’t the guy for that job.

What you’d need is someone smart who loves their country and is brave enough to do the right thing for everyone else, even if it’s not the right thing for himself.

Someone like Ed Snowden.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

December 2016