snowden-movie-posterSNOWDEN (2016) 5 Stars out of 5

If I wasn’t confused enough after watching the powerful new Oliver Stone directed film SNOWDEN, I am now totally freaked out. Is it just a coincidence that the House Intelligence Committee report on Edward Snowden is released on the eve of the opening of this movie! Just a coincidence or just another cover-up by our government. I am not a believer in conspiracy theories, but come on now, releasing this multi- year report as Stone’s film is about to go nationwide?

The House Intelligence committee report is calling National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden a “serial exaggerator and fabricator who doesn’t fit the profile of a whistle-blower”.

I want to be perfectly clear. With SNOWDEN, Oliver Stone has directed one of his best films. For those of you who have forgotten, Stone is responsible for classics such as BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, PLATOON and WALL STREET.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (as Snowden) delivers an Oscar winning performance. Note I didn’t write, Oscar nominated performance. Shailene Woodley, Nicholas Cage, Rhys Ifans, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, and Tom Wilkinson round out the outstanding cast. Equally outstanding is the cinematography (Anthony Dod Mantle) and the musical score (Craig Armstrong and Adam Peters). Mr. Stone together with Kieran Fitzgerald wrote the screenplay.

Separately, all members of the House Intelligence committee have sent a bipartisan letter to President Barack Obama on September 15, 2016 urging him not to pardon Snowden. Is Edward Snowden a traitor to our country or is he a genuine American hero ? That decision is yours to make. Snowden fled to Hong Kong, then Russia, to avoid prosecution.

In a livestream feed from Moscow earlier this week, sponsored by Fathom Events, I watched Snowden participate in a national post-screening Q&A broadcast about the new film and about his “helping the country by revealing secret domestic surveillance programs conducted by the National Security Agency”. Participating in the live-streaming here in the United States was Oliver Stone, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and actress Shailene Woodley.

Is Snowden a hero or traitor? The Justice Department claims “there is no question his actions have inflicted serious harms on our national security.” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif), chairman of the House Intelligence committee said “Snowden betrayed his colleagues and his country.” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence committee said, “the probe revealed that the vast majority of what Snowden took had nothing to do with American privacy.” On September 15, 2016, Schiff appeared on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers”. He said the following, “The majority of what he took has to do with military secrets and defense secrets.”

It is safe to write that SNOWDEN, deserving all of its 5 Stars review — is the most controversial film of the year. It is also one of the best pictures produced this year. From the research that I have done for this review, it seems that Oliver Stone’s film is fairly accurate.

Three embellishments were made adding to the drama. Stone inserts George Orwell’s 1984 to further compare the NSA with “Big Brother”. The film has Snowden breaking his legs jumping off his top bunk bed during basic army training. Snowden himself has said that he broke his legs during a training exercise. And without giving away the film’s plot, just note that the Rubik’s Cube which plays a major role — cannot be proven. To this day Snowden has never revealed his actual method of smuggling information.

Those of you who follow my reviews know that I value audience reactions and responses. What follows are the significant shared thoughts of a group of people who met together with me following the screening and live-streaming in Las Vegas.

  1. If you see something and say something, it is because you care.
  2. There are no simple answers to complicated questions. You will take away from the film what you want.
  3. The Government can get and do anything it wants.
  4. If there was nothing to hide ….. then why …..
  5. Privacy is the fountainhead of all our rights.
  6. What the NSA is doing violates the United States Constitution.

“Snowden himself always claims to have wanted — to bother you, to fill you with doubt about the good intentions of those who gather your data and tell you it’s for your own protection” (A.O. Scott, The New York Times)


Bob Fisher at the Movies, our exclusive News3 film critic reviews the remake of the 1960’s western classic, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, starring Denzel Washington.

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