HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:80
You’d have to be living under a rock if you don’t know who Edward Snowden is theses. 2013 was an EXPLOSIVE year for secrets being laid bare, and Snowden was one of the biggest news stories that year had to offer. A 29-year-old government analyst who revealed to the world that the NSA and the CIA were systematically spying on the U.S. population with impunity. He laid open quite a few government programs and leaked them directly to the press in a Hong Kong hotel room back in 2013, letting forth a firestorm of love/hate emotions from his intended recipients. Even as a staunch fan of whistle blowing illegal actions, I still struggle with lionizing or demonizing Edward Snowden for what he did. His actions gutted many U.S. intelligence projects and even opened us up to attack, but what he also did was tell the truth. Do I think that he was disingenuous or that he was trying to hurt the U.S.? Not in the least. He was only doing what he thought was right, but sadly we may never know the true extent of the reality of the situation or the true facts due to the high levels of national security that is involved (it may take 50 years for the events to be declassified).
I have to admit that I was a little worried about Oliver Stone helming the semi biopic take on the 2013 leaks. He is known for his extreme political views (as a right leaning person I sometimes wince at his VERY leftist bent in the movies he undertakes) as well as the fact that his modern films have been nothing short of “meh” in comparison his more enthusiastic and energetic film making days. While it IS true that he VERY obviously is lionizing Snowden (he pretty much lauds the young man as a superhero standing against the big evil government), he makes an incredibly enjoyable political thriller with a skill that really makes you long for the days of 80s and 90s Oliver Stone.
We all know the basics but here we go again. Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt with a vocal pattern change to sound more like the real Snowden) is recruited into the CIA at a young age and given incredible responsibility when he proves himself one of the most brilliant computer analysts out there. Everything seems great. He’s got a fantastic job with the government, he has a wonderful girlfriend in the form of photographer Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley), and oodles of access to all sorts of awesome information. However, he soon begins noticing things that make him a little morally suspicious. Programs that allow access into ANYONE’s lives without the slightest bit of real oversight and programs that he creates as backups being used to interject U.S. interests into other countries as a weapon. Something that is not just happening, but happening without the general public’s knowledge. Violations of privacy that would make any human rights activists hair shoot straight up in pure horror.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=87737[/img]Guilty over the implications of the information he holds close, Snowden retires from the CIA and goes into contract work for government agencies as a “way out”. Unfortunately, he can run but he can’t hide. After running into his old CIA boss, Corbin O’Brian (Rhys Ifans), Snowden is roped into going to Hawaii to act as counter intelligence only to find out that he’s back in the epicenter of it all. Finally, he can’t take it anymore. With the help of a few other concerned parties Snowden takes his information and leaks it to a group of reporters in a Hong Kong Hotel room in late 2013. Giving them enough information and data to blow the doors off of this thing. An act that will CERTAINLY land him in hot water (to say the least).
I’m not sure I totally agree with Stone’s lionization of Snowden. I mean, he practically has a halo around him and pronounces him a messiah by the end (although stone paints his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills as the focal point for turning him into a less selfish and self-centered person), but I have to say that it makes for a incredibly intriguing drama. Naturally I was a little curious to see HOW Stone could make a fairly innocuous hotel room meeting into a 2 hour 14-minute epic, but I have to say I was quite surprised. The story fluctuates back and forth through time as Snowden recounts to the journalists just how he got to this situation and splices in pieces of the past in between his Hotel room drama. Stone employs some great use of cameras in making the story seem more exciting. Shifting angles to overhead shots, employing color tone shifts between scenes, and using footage from handhelds and webcams to give a birds eye view into the “espionage” style of the end product.
I’ve always had a big love affair with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He’s a fantastic actor and a big personal favorite of mine ever since his “3rd Rock from the Sun” days. He’s absolutely magnificent as Snowden, and while I had a little problem with the vocal pattern they had him try to imitate, it grows on you after a while. Woodley is decent, but she’s always just been a middle of the road actor, and this screenplay doesn’t exactly ask a whole lot from her. What REALLY surprised me was the unique mixture of supporting characters that come and go. Rhys Ifan is the most prominent as Corbin O’Brian, but we have appearances from Nicholas Cage (who is incredibly NORMAL for once. Something I didn’t know could be accomplished), Timothy Olyphant, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson and Scott Eastwood. All of whom blend seamlessly into the film without calling attention to themselves or trying to grand stand.
Rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=87745[/img]“Snowden” comes to Blu-ray with a very impressive looking 2.40:1 aspect ratio with a fantastic 30+ mbps bitrate. This allowing for an artifact free experience for the Arri Alexa shot film. Thanks to the 4K DI and master (which sadly did not warner a 4K UltraHD release) the image is nearly flawless. Creases and folds in skin can be seen with razor sharp clarity, and the overall texture of the digitally shot film is incredibly visceral. Like he always does, Stone employs multiple different color gradings and stylistic choices to the screen. Sometimes showing diffused and desaturated colors, while other times showing off vibrant and rich cinematography (think the Hawaii shots). Grading can range from light and grey, to heavily teal to fairly natural with honey undertones and the black levels can adjust up and down the scale as well. Shadow detail and depth is incredibly solid, but the shades of black and grey do change as the color grading shifts.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=87753[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track (of which there is only one, no foreign language tracks) is a bit of a talky affair, but it is fairly accurate and has some punch when necessary. Dialog is first and foremost at the center of the film’s focus and everything is replicated quite intelligibly in the front speaker. The mains get a little bit of action with the light piano tinkling and the more active moments (such as when Edward Snowden and Corbin O’Brian are out pheasant hunting), and the surrounds can bring some mild ambiance to the picture. Sounds of the data clusters humming and the background dialog in the CIA headquarters on Hawaii and the sounds of Hong Kong hustle and bustle all shift around quite actively and the LFE has a strong presence in that center channel to add intensity.
• Finding the Truth
• Snowden: Q&A
I’m not sure I can give the film the over adoration that it has garnered critically due to my consternation over the legitimacy of Snowden’s actions. Had this been a fictional movie I probably would have given it a 4.5/5 with ease, as it is a fantastic movie. Unfortunately, this ISN’T a fictional piece and real world politics and opinions on Snowden will intertwine themselves with the movie’s narrative. As such it really isn’t anything more than me showing some hesitation on the lionization and romanticizing of Snowden’s efforts (many people still consider him a traitor) which detract ever so slightly from my enjoyment. As a movie, it’s near flawless, though, and Oliver Stone is riding on a peak that I didn’t think was capable after his last few bombs. Despite some hesitations on Snowden, the movie itself is definitely worth a watch and one of the better political thrillers in the last few years. Definitely worth a watch.
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Written by: Kieran Fitzgerald, Oliver Stone
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 134 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 27th 2016
Buy Snowden On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Good Watch
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