Snowden
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Snowden

For many years television was considered as possessing less impact and prestige than film. A movie star would never consider lowering their popular value by appearing on TV and someone from television rarely made the transition to the movies. Thankfully that out of date paradigm has been entirely discredited. For some years, some of the finest performers have had their start on television. Tom Hanks first came to broad exposure dressing in drag for a silly sitcom, ‘Bosom Bodies.' Fellow Academy Award winner for Best Actor, Leonardo DiCaprio first appeared in the family-oriented sitcom, ‘Growing Pains’ before his breakout role in the movie, ‘What's Eating Gilbert Grape.' The film under consideration here, ‘Snowden’ boast two of the most sought after and talented performers of their generation. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, became a household name as an extraterrestrial on Earth in ‘3rd Rock from the Sun’ while many fans had their initial exposure to Shailene Woodley appearing as a pregnant teenager on the family drama, ‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager.' Both of these performers are incredibly talented and considering their work to date in movies they need to clear space in their homes reserving it for when they take home am Oscar.

Filmmaker Oliver Stone has built his considerable reputation by creating movies depicting the lives of famous individuals, usually those associated with a significant degree of controversy. He has focused his critical eye on Presidents including John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, and George W. Bush. In his most recent opus, Mr. Stone turns to a man that shook the world without ever holding political office, Edward Snowden (Edward Snowden). He is a man who dedicated his life to serving his country first in the U.S. Army with intentions of matriculating to the Special Forces, and after breaking his leg as a computer programmer and analysis for the Central Intelligence Agency. During his professional activities, Mr. Snowden discovered that the CIA and other government agencies were guilty of illegal procedures and horrendous breaches of personal privacy on a massive scale. His subsequent actions enlightened the world and forced the government publically acknowledge the wrongdoing not only destroyed his career but made the whistleblower into an international fugitive.

The story begins in medias res, in 2013 with Snowden engaged in a clandestine meeting in Hong Kong with documentarian Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo and) and journalist Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto). The topic discussed is the public release of classified information in the former’s possession regarding illegal mass surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). This information had gathered by Snowden in an act that would be considered treasonous. Flashback to 2004 when Snowden was in basic training for the U.S. Army. The repeated shocks on his tibia resulted in a serious break. The doctor informed Edward that although the break will heal you will never be able to go back to active duty. Still determined to serve his country Snowden applies to the CIA. During the screening process, it seemed as though he would be rejected. Snowden had not finished high school because he was required to earn a living to support his family. It was an autodidact with an incredible talent for computer systems. Deputy Director Corbin O'Brian (Rhys Ifans) sees something extraordinary in the young man. Telling Snowden that these are extraordinary times he was going to take a chance on allowing them to apply his abilities to national security. He sends them to ‘The Hill’ to begin his training. The decision made was that his use would be fighting cyber warfare. During his education learns about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which provides provisions for a covert court to issue secret warrants that circumvent the Fourth Amendment. Snowden is initially substantially disturbed at a formal loophole that allows for Star Chamber judges issuing warrants without any public record.

Despite his lack of formal education, Snowden Stone proved himself to be the smartest person in the room exceeding even the abilities of most of his instructors. During a test to create a computer backup system Snowden astounds his instructor. The record for solving the problem was five hours with the passing time of eight hours. Snowden achieved a perfect score in the unimaginable time of 38 minutes. He is befriended by one of the instructors, Hank Forrester (Nicolas Cage) led once been a position similar to Snowden. If the challenging his superiors on the point of legality, Forrester was removed from active service cloistered as an instructor. Snowden had initially impressed Forrester being able to correctly identify the historical computer artifacts he kept in his office. Knowing the scene is the rising stars of the CIA and his request for a field assignment is approved. In 2070 is posted abroad working with diplomatic cover in Geneva. There he is plotted with Gabriel Sol (Ben Schnetzer) who introduces Snowden the some of the realities of working in the real world. On occasion their assignments can be greatly facilitated by cutting a few corners, the ends justifying the means. Just before accepting his post-Snowden goes on a dating website where he meets Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley). It is immediately obvious that there is chemistry between them. Edward and Lindsay quickly becomes a couple despite the fact that their socio-political viewpoints are opposed. She is a staunch liberal wall Snowden is a jingoistic conservative. The relationship is sufficiently stable that they remained together even during the times Snowden is on assignment abroad.

While in Geneva the subject of the assignment was to compromise a particular foreign official. When the usual means fail, Sol decides to get the man exceptionally drunk, put them behind the realtor’s car and arrange for his arrest for a DUI. Snowden finds this action unconscionable and refuses to participate. As a result, he is called before superiors and rather than further compromises ethics, he resigns from the CIA.

Snowden determined that this would be not the end of his career in counterterrorism. Snowden takes a position with the NSA working in Japan. His initial assignment was to build a system that would backup all the data collected for the Middle East in the case of an emergency loss of the primary servers. He discovers that the United States and several of its allies are routinely planting malware in various computers managing the infrastructure of targeted countries, both allies, and enemies. If the circumstances warrant that preemptive action is required, malware can be activated disabling the systems. The job places of employment stress upon Snowden, and it is subsequently discovered that he has epilepsy. That is sent back stateside to Maryland where he resumes his relationship with Lindsay. It is there that he finds out that the government routinely collects personal data from millions of individuals not just without warrants with little or no suspicious behavior to justify such an intrusion.

While this is not one of Oliver Stone’s best constructed films it does provide a platform with some of the greatest performances of the year. The screenplay authored by Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald fails to achieve the spark necessary to stand out. Considering this is one of the most important new stories about times and it would Snowden attaining the status of one of the most influential whistleblowers ever, the story deserves something with a little more panache. The first act of the story covering Mr. Snowden’s backstory is paste exceptionally well concisely informed the audience of the staunch more: this man and his unyielding love of country. The story begins to disarticulate as it moves closer to the point that everyone is waiting for, the discovery of the wholesale surveillance of private citizens. Losing the critical pacing the dénouement is softened to something almost at the climactic. During the credit is the usual ‘where are they now’ montage now featuring the real Edward Snowden.

Mr. Gordon-Levitt rises above the shortcomings of the film by embodying the essence of this pivotal historical figure. Once again backed up on a sitcom can leverage such experience into becoming one of the most notable actors on the scene today. His resume is incredibly eclectic with him excelling in roles from big-budget science-fiction epics to smaller, emotionally driven, independent films. Gordon-Levitt has the uncanny ability as a chameleon, wearing the persona of his character but her favorite pair of jeans. Modern actors would be able to take on such an extensive selection of parts with such incredible success. The simple observation applies to Ms. Woodley. Performance in the ABC family drama came across as somewhat wooden. And sending her eyes on movies, she has blossomed into a formidable talent. She is a leading lady was just as believable in a high-octane action role as she is a serious drama. Although their time together on screen is rather brief, there is a palpable chemistry achieved between her and her costar. They both bring such nuances for their performances that it is mesmerizing to watch.

bulletDeleted Scenes
bulletFinding the Truth
bulletSnowden - Q & A - An interview with Edward Snowden, Oliver Stone, Joseph Gordan-Levitt and Shailene Woodley

12/30/2016

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