The story of Edward Snowden is well-known by now. The young federal government contractor took off for Hong Kong in 2013 with a huge trove of government documents, which he soon leaked to a group of journalists, exposing numerous U.S. government secrets related to national security and surveillance. The moment Snowden met in Hong Kong with those journalists was chronicled in Laura Poitras’ Oscar-winning 2014 documentary CitizenFour.
The Snowden story is so naturally cinematic that you knew a dramatic feature was probably inevitable – and sure enough, director and experienced political provocateur Oliver Stone soon announced plans to make such a film, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the title role. Directed by Stone and co-written by the director and Kieran Fitzgerald, Snowden was originally scheduled for release late last year, but delayed into 2016, first to the spring and then to the fall. And now, the film has its first full-length trailer.
The two-and-a-half minute clip, which follows a brief teaser from last July, makes the film resemble a heist thriller. It shows Snowden first in his brief military career, with this CIA, and as a contractor, and getting visibly disillusioned when he discovers what the government is up to. Then he’s shown smuggling the the incriminating data in a Rubik’s Cube and later meeting the journalists and Poitras in that Hong Kong hotel.
The film also stars Shailene Woodley as Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills, Zachary Quinto as Glenn Greenwald, Melissa Leo as Poitras and Tom Wilkinson as British journalist Ewan MacAskill. The film’s cast also includes Timothy Olyphant, Scott Eastwood and Nicolas Cage. You can check out the poster for Snowden, below.
There are multiple reasons to be skeptical about this film. It’s been a long time since Stone made an incendiary political film and succeeded – Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) had no discernible impact on the zeitgeist or political debate, and W (2008) didn’t either. The feature film about about another national security leaker, Julian Assange, The Fifth Estate, bombed in 2013. And whatever you think about Snowden himself, or his even more polarizing media frontman Glenn Greenwald, CitizenFour already told this story, and told it in the most compelling and dramatic way imaginable.
In order to succeed, Snowden will have to show us things about the Snowden story that aren’t well-known and weren’t in the documentary – and it appears it does, showing us Snowden’s decision-making and flight from the U.S., prior to his meeting of Poitras and Greenwald. And who knows, maybe Stone has another Born on the Fourth of July or J.F.K. in him, and this is it.
Snowden is set for theatrical release in the U.S. on September 16th, 2016
Source: Open Road Films
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