So Edward Snowden has become a household name for leaking news that the U.S. secret service has been monitoring everyone, literally everyone (friends and enemies alike) without permission. When news broke that it had happened back in 2013, it was an incredibly big story that shook one of the most powerful nations to its very core. It was only a matter of time before it was dramatised into a film,wWhich it was, last year, by Oliver Stone and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Snowden himself, now being released on demand and on Blu-Ray.
Snowden the film follows Edward Snowden, the man responsible for leaking classified surveillance techniques and programmes to the mainstream media. The film follows Snowden through his various posts as part of the CIA and NSA and the events that lead him to question his country's activities. It also goes into his relationship with Lindsay Mills, his long-term girlfriend and the strain his secretive career has on their relationship.
This is a hard review to write, because, while everything about Snowden screams a decent award winning film, there is something that prevents it from being a vital film comment on the current state of American foreign policy.
Let's start with the good; Joseph Gordon-Levitt does an absolutely fantastic job as Edward Snowden. His performance is perhaps the only thing that elevates this film out of a mire of mediocrity. Gordon-Levitt is an incredibly talented actor, but surprisingly he is also highly underutilised by Hollywood. Here in Snowden, through Gordon-Levitt's portrayal of the NSA contractor, we can see a man struggling with questions of patriotism and privacy, national versus personal security.
Through Levitt the rest of the cast shines, Shailene Woodley particularly is brilliant as Lindsay Mills, and there is an easy chemistry between the two stars that feels real. When it all comes crashing down, we feel the pain of each person.
The film is also technically well made with some interesting sections. It is always impressive when a film can make typing on a computer entertaining. However, there is something holding Snowden back from true greatness and apparently the award recognition that it was angling for. I am not sure really how to put it into words. Some critics have said that the film feels safe and I can see that there is only one perspective on display here, and it would have benefited from a more even hand in the examination of the actions of a man who did the world a service revealing these secrets, but also committed treason. Though there maybe something else that stops this film from being a conscious choice rather than something that you'd watch if you stumble across it on TV.
Snowden really has only one thing going for it to mark it out as the film it wanted to be, Gorden-Levitt is a standout, and it is a shame he isn't in more movies. However, the rest of the film is painfully bland, a shame from a frenetic director like Oliver Stone.
Vertigo has done a decent job constructing the disc; the menu is clear and straightforward. though that is because of a distinct lack of optional or special features. Well, there is a trailer but seeing as you are watching a trailer of a film that you have already bought it is almost like preaching to the converted.
The main menu fits the tone of the film well with an interesting audio-visual loop. Overall there are no audio or visual errors in the transfer. But then again for an established film distributor like Sony it would be only notable if there were glaring mistakes in the disc, so, all in all, it is a functioning quality product for a "quality film."
I am having a hard time with this review, not because the film is bad or the disc is unusable but because the Blu-Ray of Snowden is a very barebones release of a movie that is also surprisingly just okay. For an issue and a story as important as this you would have hoped for more to the release. However, what we receive instead is a forgettable Blu-Ray containing a forgettably good film. I would recommend checking it out on demand, but only if you are already paying for Sky or any other streaming service as really with this release you are just buying the film. If possible track down the much better Citizenfour documentary.