Saturday, October 22, 2016

Snowden (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Edward Snowden, the whistle blower, a hero to some and a villain to others, is featured in a film directed by Oliver Stone. In many ways it is a hi-tech response to his earlier epic "Born on the Fourth of July." In place of Ron Kovic, this is Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) an idealistic young man fueled by 9-11 patriotism, just as impassioned as Kovic had been before Vietnam.

But once more, fate intervenes.

Gordon-Levitt is excellent and on key as the halting-voiced Snowden and he all but vanishes into this very real man. The film is uneven though in highlightling Snowden's time in the CIA with long flashbacks and cyberspace explanations, along with a bit of soap opera involving his longtime girlfriend Lindsay.

We find Snowden, bespeckled and struggling as an army officer. He fractures his leg while hurrying out of his bunk bed. He receives a medical discharge.

Snowden has an interview with CIA agent Corbin O' Brian (Rhys Ifans) who finds he has a knack for computer code and loves America. Snowden is hired monitoring code for the CIA. Better yet, he meets his online date Lindsay (Shailene Woodley) a spirited photographer. But when Snowden falls in with the glib Gabriel (Ben Schnetzer) all is not liberty. Eyes are on the innocent as well as the guilty.

The main pull of the film is riveting, clearly showing Snowden distance himself from his peers, while still seeming an observer. Snowden suffers from seizures brought on by stress and grows fearful of the all seeing camera, our ubiquitous playmate. It is only the long CIA sequences that make  the film lag slightly with technical emphasis on codes, encryptions and clearances.

Nicolas Cage appears as a not- too-hammy professor with only his hair mussed. Melissa Leo gives an authentic delivery of filmmaker Laura Poitras while Tom Wilkinson is MacAskill, a Guardian reporter.

Ultimately, "Snowden" is all Joseph Gordon-Levitt. One does feel that Oliver Stone, the provocateur, is holding back. Yes, there are striking touches: a camera turns into a sun which transforms into the iris of an eye and Snowden's silhouette blurs into the elongated shape of an alien. (Thank God! Snowden the spaceman is here to save us) But aside from these moments, there are few flourishes.

Still, Gordon-Levitt gives Snowden life and by the time one sees the actual man, our 21st century Shelley, accompanied by a high octane song by the inimitable Peter Gabriel, it induces cheers. "Snowden" reveals a person of flesh and blood and after watching, one can well see him on the head of a Casascius Bitcoin, albeit in the future.

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