I tend to lean conservative when it comes to the Snowden issue, in that I believe that he did commit a crime and does deserve some sort of punishment. That being said, going into "Snowden", I figured that its political messages were going to be pretty heavy-handed given that it was directed by Oliver Stone. I was right.
This film could have went in three directions: an espionage thriller, a straightforward biopic, or a political film. It definitely fell into the latter category. Oliver Stone's message that Edward Snowden was a hero definitely came across in a strong way throughout the film, and that isn't a great thing. It led to the film being uninteresting. Portraying a character as human, but completely good doesn't work in any film, much less one about a person who is deemed by many to be a traitor. If the film would have shown both sides of Snowden, the character would have been more interesting and I would have been more involved in the story.
There were also two subplots that felt off. First, there was one about a character played by Nicolas Cage. The character is positioned as one of Snowden's mentors, only to disappear after about 5 minutes of screen time and reappear at the end. I feel like his role should have either been bigger or omitted completely. Also, the subplot involving Snowden's girlfriend, played by Shailene Woodley is completely excessive. There was a sex scene, and I understand its presence. It was to illustrate Snowden's preoccupation of the government watching his personal life. But the scene went on for far too long and showed far more than it needed to. Then, the film involves elements of the girlfriend having nude photos of herself. I can somewhat understand the relevance to Stone's political agenda, but the photos didn't actually have to be shown.
Joseph Gordon Levitt's acting was good, but he didn't particularly look or sound like Edward Snowden. Shailene Woodley wasn't very good, with her crying looking fake and not being extremely believable. Rhys Ifans is good as a supporting character, as is Zachary Quinto, but no one else really has enough screen time to make a fair judgement. The technical elements of the film were impressive at times, though. There were some cool effects used to show the infrastructure of web systems, for example.
So overall, "Snowden" is an overly political film that isn't horrible, but has rather overbearing one-sidedness. Joseph Gordon Levitt's performance saves the film from almost being boring.
Big Tuna's Rating: C+
How Did I Watch It?: In theaters.
Had I Seen It Before?: No.
Would I Watch It Again?: No.
I am a huge movie fan that wants to tell people about my very varying taste and opinion of film.