Starring: Joseph Gordon Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Tom Wilkinson, Zachary Quinto, Rhys Ifans, Nicolas Cage, Timothy Olyphant, Joely Richardson, Scott Eastwood, Ben Chaplin, Ben Schnetzer, Logan Marshall Green
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Plot: Edward Snowden (Levitt) tells his story to a documentary filmmaker (Leo) and a pair of journalists (Wilkinson, Quinto), and becomes the most infamous whistleblower in history.
What Works: Levitt is excellent as Snowden. He’s such a tremendous, underrated actor. It’s scary that he’s never been nominated for an Oscar. It just means his time is near. This is not his year. As much as I loved his performance, even I couldn’t put it in my top five. This is just a harder year, but one day he’ll get the right performance, and a nomination. The rest of the cast is pretty much as expected, no real standouts though. I did like that I found out more about Snowden. He wasn’t just some random guy, he actually had advanced pretty far. He’s smart, and struggles with his love for his country and his moral compass.
What Doesn’t Work: This is supposed to be an Oliver Stone film. It doesn’t feel like an Oliver Stone film. It’s oddly paced, not really exciting, and not nearly as inflammatory as some of his past works. His last film, Savages, was a bit of a mess, and Snowden is a step up from that, but still a far cry from JFK, Natural Born Killers, or any of his earlier works. It’s like he’s lost his way. I’m worried that he’s lost his voice, and his unique perspective. This should have been right up his alley, but it all feels very safe. He tells the story of Edward Snowden in a way that any filmmaker could have, but Stone isn’t just any filmmaker. He’s a controversial filmmaker. When a controversial filmmaker makes a film about a controversial filmmaker, the end result should be controversial. This is pretty vanilla, all things considered. And because of that, I think he let Levitt down a bit. This could have been a much bigger performance for Levitt had Stone pushed the barrier a bit more, but instead he went with safe, and that’s disappointing.
Final Word: I think secretly the studio knew they had an OK film on their hands, and they pushed it out into September hoping it might get a few people thinking it was Oscar bait, but this is nowhere near that. It’s not really suspenseful or game changing in any way.
Final Grade: B-