film review

‘Snowden”: The man who confirmed Big Brother is definitely watching us

Posted:  Friday, October 21, 2016 - 4:00pm
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There’s something going on inside the government that’s really wrong and I can’t ignore it. I just want to get this data to the world.” - Edward Snowden quote from the film, “Snowden.”

Whatever your personal belief about Edward Snowden's whistleblowing of surveillance activities of our country's NSA and CIA organizations, Oliver Stone's new film “Snowden” should be on your must see list.

Stone and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt met with Snowden in Moscow before filming, which took place in Germany because, according to reports, film companies in the U.S. wouldn't touch the project.

The story about the computer genius, former CIA employee, and intelligence contractor for the U.S. government begins in a Hong Kong hotel room, the setting for Laura Poitras' documentary “Citizenfour.” Snowden is there with Poitras, Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald and Ewan MacAskill, a journalist from Scotland, telling his story and turning over the documentation of it for them to share with the world.

From there we are with Snowden in 2004 when he joined the Army Reserves and is training to be a member of its Special Services Forces. He wanted to be part of the unit “to free people from oppression” - the forces' motto. His plans are dashed when he falls from his upper bunk in the barracks. The doctor tells him that his legs are permanently damaged; carrying an 80-pound pack on his slight frame of 150 pounds caused stress fractures. Snowden asks the doctor when he can return to training and is told he cannot go back. He will be discharged. The doc tells the unhappy Snowden there are other ways he can serve his country.

Snowden goes on to become a security specialist at the University of Maryland, and the CIA in Virginia in the global communications division in 2006. Later there's the “Secret” CIA school where he is trained to be a technology specialist, then it’s on to Geneva as a network securities specialist, and then Hawaii as an employee of Dell to teach military and other personnel how to prevent hacking.

The secondary story line involves his romance with Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley), whom he meets through a dating website for geeks. Lindsay is a free-spirited, liberal-minded young woman and challenges Snowden's trust in the U.S. government, support of the military and his political beliefs in general. They are opposites that attract. And last.

As Snowden becomes familiar with tactics used by the CIA, he sees that ethics and principles are not always upheld in the fight against terrorism and that intelligence is also gathered on every American, not just citizens suspected of being affiliated with terrorist organizations. The more he learns, the more troubled Snowden becomes.

In the film, a mission by the CIA in Geneva leads him to resign from the organization; the agency deliberately gets a Swiss banker drunk and then put him behind the wheel of his car. The CIA used Snowden to help ply the man with alcohol and then wanted Snowden to get the banker into his car but he refused. The CIA boss tells Snowden to leave, they would take care of it. After the banker is arrested the CIA comes to see him and offers him a way out – all he has to do is be an informant – if he says no, the dirt dug up on a member of the banker's family would become public knowledge.

Couple this with the knowledge that the U.S. government had surveillance invading the privacy of Americans – every Internet click, every phone conversation, Facebook entry and Tweet – Snowden is burdened by his role in this betrayal of the people. He was working for Big Brother. In an argument with Lindsay he tells her she doesn't know what it's like to feel responsible for so many people. And this is a burden that increasingly comes to bear on his decision to blow the proverbial whistle.

In the film, Deputy Director of the NSA tells Snowden: Most Americans don’t want freedom, they want security.” Replies Snowden: “Except people don’t even know they’ve made that bargain.”

During a birthday party Lindsay throws for him, he collapses into an epileptic fit. The doctor caring for Snowden tells him it is essential that he commits to taking Tegretal and tries to reduce the stress in his life. Snowden doesn't want his mind to be foggy, he needs to be alert and on his game. He knows what he is going to do and is willing to give up his life to do it.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers an outstanding performance in his portrayal of Snowden and Woodley's portrayal of Lindsay Mills is excellent. Another performance that stands out is by Rhys Ifans who plays Corbin O’Brian, Snowden's boss at the CIA.

“Snowden” is playing this week at The Harbor Theatre in Boothbay Harbor. It opens tonight, Friday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. and continues at the same time Oct. 22, 23, 25 and 26 with an additional 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Oct. 23.

Oliver Stone has made impressive films throughout his career - “J.F.K.,” “Platoon,” “Wall Street,” and “Midnight Express” - “Snowden” is another to add to a distinguished catalog of films.