MOVIE BUFF-ET: Oliver Stone’s Snowden prompts questions in compelling fashion

Open Road Films

Oliver Stone is biased. He’s probably paranoid. He may even be a bit of an eccentric. That makes him a lot like many of us.

What separates Stone from the pile is that he is one fine filmmaker, and his latest movie Snowden is perhaps his best since JFK, which opened 25 years ago.

Snowden is a dramatization of the true events surrounding Edward Snowden, a National Security Agency contractor, who leaked classified intelligence information concerning the United State’s tracking of digital communication of Americans and those abroad to The Guardian, a British daily newspaper.

New In Local Theaters

  • Snowden (R) 2 hr. 14 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)
    » Watch trailer
  • Live Another Day (NR) 1 hr. 44 min
    (AMC Fiesta Square)
    » Watch trailer
  • Hillsong — Let Hpoe Rise (PG) 1 hr., 43 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Rogers Towne)
    » Watch trailer
  • Blair Witch (R) 1 hr. 29 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Rogers Towne)
    » Watch trailer
  • Bridget Jones’ Baby (R) 2 hr. 5 min.
    (Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)
    » Watch trailer
  • Mr. Church (PG-13) 1 hr. 44 min.
    (Malco Rogers Towne)
    » Watch trailer

Whether you consider Snowden a whistleblower, a de facto spy, a traitor, or a patriot, Stone tells a compelling story of how unchecked power can incrementally get out of hand, and how narrow the path is between a government protecting the liberty of its citizens and making a mockery of it.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Snowden, a brilliant computer whiz, who wants nothing more than to serve his country in some capacity. However, his honesty and integrity ends up making him a liability to the U.S. intelligence community rather than an asset.

Snowden leaves two well-paying, moderately high-level intelligence jobs because he’s uncomfortable with the tactics used to develop assets, and the nonchalance in which the NSA and CIA use the information they have collected.

Snowden’s true brilliance at writing computer programs puts him at the technological center of a global spy network, writing code and breaking down barriers in which few others can. However, when he discovers the enormity of the net the NSA is casting with its information gathering, Snowden feels compelled to release the information to the media.

Condensing the complexity of Snowden’s story down to a two-hour film certainly simplifies the story, but Stone’s movie is compelling enough to make anyone ask questions about the moral and ethical quandary Snowden found himself mired.

Stone, who co-wrote the script, definitely sees Snowden as a hero, and he tells the story from Snowden’s viewpoint. It is a one-sided account of the story, but the questions it raises are pertinent no matter what side of the issue you fall on.

Stone coaxed a tense yet subtle performance out of Gordon-Levitt, who is supported with quality turns by Rhys Ifans as Corbin O’Brian, Snowden’ connected CIA mentor, and Nicholas Cage as Hank Forrester, an instructor, who is a hero of Snowden’s.

Shailene Woodley is fine as Lindsay Mills, Snowden’s girlfriend, who mostly dutifully supports him despite have only a slieght clue of what he actually does at work Woodley’s not asked to do much in the role, but Stone uses the details of their relationship to show the stress that such a mentally demanding and conscious-sacrificing job produces.

Melissa Leo, and particularly Zachary Quinto, and Tom Wilkinson are strong as three reporters working with Snowden to release the information.

While the movie isn’t exactly riveting, it does ask important questions in a fairly serious manner. It could prompt viewers to ask a few tough questions of their own.

(R) 2 hr. 14 min.
Grade: B+

Classic Corner

Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

While Peter Sellers may be most fondly remembered for playing the clumsy detective Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther comedies, it’s his triple role in Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb that stands foremost in my mind when I remember the accomplished comedian.

The outrageous film, directed by Stanley Kubrick, set the standard for satire and black comedy in 1964 that most attempts have fallen short of over the last 50 years.

The film sends up the Cold War fears of global nuclear war that were at their height in the 1960s. Those fears were real and not exactly funny, but Kubrick’s film certainly is.

Sellers is the backbone of the movie as Group Captain Lionel Mandrake of England, as President Merkin Muffley, and the wheelchair bound Dr. Strangelove, a nuclear war expert and former Nazi.

George C. Scott gives a memorable performance as Gen. Buck Turgidson, while Slim Pickens brings his cantankerous charisma to the part of Major T.J. “King” Kong.

The film is a must-see for comedy fans and history buffs alike, and if you’d like to see it on the big screen, the Malco Razorback will be showing it at 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday in conjunction with Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies.