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The Face of Edward Snowden

Film review
Reviewed by Kevin T. McEneaney

Oliver Stone’s film Snowden is part thriller, part love story. Just as the love story moves forward and back with its ups and downs, the plot moves forward and backward with flashbacks. Stone has managed to combine deftly two improbably threads that evoke more suspense than a linear film ordinarily achieves. In achievement it will as iconic as Casablanca was in its own era and beyond.  

Addressing both the security of love and state and the importance of the right to privacy in both relationships remains a daunting task on the level of authenticity. Stone manages both allegories by both simplifying, interrupting with in-depth information and dramatizing the mix.

Despite the globe-hopping scenario, most scenes remain indoors with the occasional postcard take for relief from claustrophobia. Another well-directed aspect of the film follows friendship in the timbre of decoding levity as well as body language and encrypted tone in conversation. I wish George Orwell was alive to compose an essay on the film.

Because of this biopic, Snowden is no longer a mythic cartoon figure that can be easily demonized. The themes in this film question whether the ideals that the United States was founded upon will remain our ideals going forward. Shy of offering any easy answers, the result encourages Socratic meditation.

While the film offers no solutions to our current computer quandary, the general thrust of the film manages to convey hope. Although sentimentality is generally kept in check, the orchestral music at the film’s conclusion begs the question. Adroit with humor, the humor never pushes the narrative off-track. The film offers a critique of President Obama as well as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. A brief audio clip of Trump from 2013 calls for Snowden’s execution.    

At Millerton’s Moviehouse the screening was sold out and they had to open another theater room, which was nearly sold out. There was a live Q & A with Snowden, Stone, and the two lead actors plus moderator. On the whole, this functioned as a friendly self-praising, back-slapping chat show of little interest. Snowden complained jokingly about being depicted as the “worst boyfriend in the world.”

Snowden recommends encoding all your email via Signal software for emails as well as putting a band aid over the face-time camera eye on your laptop since it can be turned on by hackers or the government. The day after the September 13 premiere of the film at the Cannes Film Festival, James Comey, current Director of the FBI, announced that he also recommends putting tape over any laptop camera and compared that security procedure to the common sense of locking your car. (Apparently he does not understand dramatic allegory.) There have been a remarkable number of unfair and deceptive reviews of this well-made film due to its political content. Movie trailer appears below.