Depending on your point of view, Edward Snowden is either an American hero or a traitor. His true story of exposing classified Government information has been well documented in the press and in the excellent documentary, "Citizenfour". Now comes the "dramatization" of his story by director, Oliver Stone.
Known for incendiary films in the past, Mr. Stone takes a rather pedestrian approach to telling Mr. Snowden's story. He presents the facts as he knows them but stretches and bends the truth for the sake of absorbing storytelling, using his self proclaimed (at the beginning of the film) "dramatization" as his out.
The film starts in 2013 in Hong Kong, where Mr. Snowden, played by Joseph Gordon- Levitt, tells his story to journalists from The Guardian" played by Zachary Quinto and Tom Wilkinson. The event is documented by filmmaker, Laura Poitras, played by Melissa Leo ( the aforementioned, "Citizenfour"). The story then jumps back in time to Mr. Snowden's time in the military and what leads to various jobs at the CIA and NSA. Early on, we are also introduced to Lindsey Mills, played by Shanilene Woodley, the young woman who quickly becomes his girlfriend. The film also co-stars Nicolas Cage as a trainer at the CIA, Timothy Olyphant, as a CIA field operative, and Rhys Ifans, as his senior CIA trainer and mentor, Corbin O'Brian.
If not for the score, the film would be completely lacking of suspense. The music creates an atmosphere of tension and paranoia that is truly represented in just a few scenes. The rest of the film is saved from utter boredom by the excellent acting of Mr. Gordon-Levitt. The film is really a character study of Mr. Snowden and Mr. Gordon-Levitt, an engaging and thoroughly committed actor, does a fine job in his accurate portrayal. Mr. Ifans is also excellent as Mr. O'Brian, the type of character he has never played before and he is chilling. Ms. Woodley's role calls for her to be eternally understanding and smile a lot.
It is clear that Mr. Stone sees Mr. Snowden as a hero, blatantly in fact, as he exits the CIA bunker bathed in light with his stolen documents. Directing without his usual fireworks and even craziness, the film leaves little in the way of entertainment or controversy. Mr. Snowden's real story is controversial enough and the film disappointingly adds nothing on it's own to the real life drama that continues even today.