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‘Snowden’ film may dis­ap­point | Wiki­Commons

Our social media posts, phone calls, and emails are all being mon­i­tored. Since 2013, American cit­izens have known they are being watched. With Edward Snowden’s dis­closure of 9,000 to 10,000 gov­ernment related doc­u­ments to the Guardian, the question of gov­ernment over­reach has inspired every­thing from con­spiracy the­ories topo­litical head­lines pro­claiming the destruction of freedom as we know it.

On Sept. 16, 2016, Open Road Films released their latest thriller “Snowden,” a film that was mar­keted as an intense drama­ti­zation of Snowden’s tran­sition from a med­ically dis­charged private in the United States army to one of the most famous whistle­blowers the world has ever seen.

While “Snowden” boasts an intricate story and a pow­erful moral dilemma, the film quickly loses its focus — and its audience — with a plethora of con­ti­nuity issues, a repet­itive romantic sub-plot, and a failure to present Snowden’s actions with impar­tiality.

“Snowden” did a decent job of grad­ually intro­ducing the internal con­flict that plagues Snowden throughout his career in the intel­li­gence industry. This con­flict raises a question that is repeatedly addressed throughout the film: Should Snowden obey his country regardless of the moral impli­ca­tions or disobey in the name of virtue?

In addressing this com­pelling central con­flict, “Snowden” suffers from three immense flaws.

First, the film quickly loses its focus on Snowden’s per­sonal con­flict. Early in the film, Snowden’s head pro­fessor at a CIA training facility tells Snowden, “The people don’t want freedom; they want security.” This is the foun­dation for Snowden’s later moral dilemma. Sur­pris­ingly, this rich, philo­sophical and polit­i­cally themed question is never again men­tioned, neither in the film’s con­clusion nor any­where else. Instead, the film gives audi­ences a stereo­typical romantic subplot, one that is both unnec­essary and repet­itive. By the time audience members see the third argument between Snowden and his unstable girl­friend, the per­ception of “Snowden” as a “drama thriller” is thrown out the window for a “romantic drama.”

Sec­ondly, there is a gross lack of con­ti­nuity. The art of ensuring each scene smoothly tran­si­tions to the next is not easy. Director Oliver Stone attempted to use a non-linear style of sto­ry­telling by beginning the film in the future and peri­od­i­cally jumping back to the past through flash­backs, mem­ories, and other rec­ol­lec­tions. Several scenes are sloppily intro­duced, one even leading to low murmurs from a whiplashed audience, thrown from one stage of Snowden’s life to another.

Finally, “Snowden” presents only one side of the issue. To quote an anonymous audience member: “I felt like I was being sold some­thing.” The truth is, when Snowden released those 9,000 to 10,000 clas­sified doc­u­ments to the world, he did break U.S. law, specif­i­cally the Espi­onage Act of 1917. Even today, people debate over whether or not Snowden is a traitor to his country. Despite this, the film never once con­tem­plates this second side to the story and instead con­demns critics of Snowden’s actions, despite their grounded objec­tions.

While “Snowden” could have been a golden oppor­tunity to focus on the nuances of the balance between freedom and security, it instead settles for an unin­ter­esting, repet­itive, and simple-minded view of a rel­evant question. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and the latest “Jason Bourne” movie, for example, did a far better job of ana­lyzing the con­flict between freedom and security and illus­trating the pos­sible con­se­quences of unchecked gov­ernment over­reach.