Skip to main content

Movie Review: Unfriended: Dark Web 'Predictable and generic'

Movie Review: #Snowden

The story of Snowden is fascinating - this one isn't.

Review by Matt Cummings

If the film documentary CitizenFour brilliantly raised fear of Big Brother to alarming heights thanks to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the new Oliver Stone biopic is meant to add a human face to one of the biggest stories of this decade. Too bad it fails in its mission, because while the topic is compelling, the film itself really isn't.

Injured while training to be an Army Ranger, Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) decides to apply for the CIA, instantly winning the approval of his boss and instructor Corbin O’Brian (Rhys Ifans) with his genius-level computer intellect. But Snowden's enthusiasm and early successes are soon marred when he realizes that his own government has been collecting data on every American by using the broadly-powered and redoubtable FISA protocols. For Snowden, the news is particularly devastating when he realizes his girlfriend (Shailene Woodley) is also being spied upon, if for no other reason than to make sure Snowden doesn't get out of hand. Faced with declining health and the prospect that millions of Americans are being lied to about their government's post-9/11 activities, Snowden makes a bold decision to leak the news and accompanying documents to two journalists (Zachary Quinto and Tom Wilkinson) and a documentary filmmaker (Melissa Leo). Their revelations will soon blow open the doors on America's largest spy network, leaving Snowden without a home and the country's reputation on the hot seat.

Simply put, Writer/Director Oliver Stone struggles to keep our attention, hoping to weave the 2014 CitizenFour documentary into Snowden, as if both were meant to bookmark the experience as definitive editions of the event. But while Laura Poitras’ version is perhaps one of the best documentaries ever made, Stone's obviousness in his stance is sometimes painful to watch, because he makes Snowden so boring and the spy tech so Jason Bourne. There's the easily-labeled "Download these spy folders" scene that you wish someone would have shaken Stone to remind him that he's actually trying to make a smart movie, and that adding dumbed-down the tech is just insulting.

The movie is set up much alike another snoozer Sully, starting off as Poitras begins her filming and then moving back to the beginning of Snowden's story before picking it up after the files are released. It's a well-shot and cut affair, with solid (but unremarkable) performances from Gordon-Levitt and even Woodley. For the first time in awhile, I found her performance to be authoritative without feeling like she was painting her portrayal with crayons. Gordon-Levitt loves his character roles (see The Walk), which usually means you'll marvel at his acumen which almost overpowers the screen. He looks and even sounds like Snowden, but never really gets much deeper than that. Stone paints in such broad strokes - with good being good and bad being evil (see again Sully) - that neither Woodley nor Levitt never get a chance to grow into their roles. The same goes for the disposable cast, which includes semi-cameos in Nicholas Cage, Joely Richardson, and Timothy Olyphant. Each are perfectly-crafted caricatures whose DNA is locked in the moment our film begins.

Snowden isn't a total disaster, not by a longshot. Composer Craig Armstrong turns in an interesting 80's keyboard score that peaks my interest, and the film in general is bathed in warm colors and fabulous sets. But Stone's textbook gameplan - that to mistrust everything and seed hostility - does nothing to elevate the conversation about what we give up when allow our government to supersede The Bill of Rights in exchange for protection. That is perhaps the most important national debate that can be had at this time, and yet all Stone does is bore us to death with a step-above documentary that makes Snowden as dull as we all thought he was.

Snowden is one of those films that's meant to inspire fierce debate among moviegoers as they walk out. Too bad the content of those discussions will fall squarely in the "Boy, was that boring!" category and not where it actually should. Nonetheless, check out CitizenFour - it never plays the game safely, and is worth every ounce of its Oscar win. Snowden will merely make you want to cut to a chase that never really gets there.

Snowden is rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity and has a runtime of 134 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Movie Review: #MissSloane

The political drama Miss Sloane fails to lobby us into Oscar territory.
Review by Matt Cummings
In a time when women were supposed to be leading our country, Miss Sloane arrives to remind us of what could have been. Unfortunately, this message about a headstrong female Washington lobbyist loses us early with an unappealing director, a paper-thin plot, and suffers from a ton of convenient realism. If the good (but not impressive) performances weren't there to buffer these and many other gaps, we might have found ourselves voting for impeachment.

For Washington lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain), life is about getting her clients what they want from the halls of Congress. Her boss Dupont (Sam Waterston) will sleep with NRA types, fudge travel records, and bully smaller firms into submission if it means a hearty paycheck at day's end. But when Sloane leaves the company to push Gun Control legislation with one of those smaller firms, Dupont turns to his bulldog Co…

Bethany Ashton Wolf¹s FOREVER MY GIRL ACQUIRED BY @roadsidetweets

Forever My Girl tells the story of country music super-star Liam Page (Alex Roe) who left his bride, Josie (Jessica Rothe), at the altar choosing fame and fortune instead. However, Liam never got over Josie, his one true love, nor did he ever forget his Southern roots in the small community where he was born and raised. When he unexpectedly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his high school best friend, Liam is suddenly faced with the consequences of all that he left behind.

Roadside Attractions and LD Entertainment partner for their 7th collaboration with Roadside’s domestic distribution acquisition of Bethany Ashton Wolf’s uplifting family romance Forever My Girl, it was jointly announced today by Roadside Attractions co-founders Howard Cohen & Eric d’Arbeloff, and Mickey Liddell of LD Entertainment. Forever My Girl will be released wide in theaters on October 27, 2017.

The two companies previously collaborated on numerous films including multiple Academy Award® nominee …

Giveaway: @SwissArmyMan Prize Pack

In celebration of Swiss Army Man opening this Friday, we were provided with an Awesome giveaway for our fans out there.



See how to enter after the Jump...

Prize pack will include a large Manny beach towel and a tote bag



Email us at giveaways@sandwichjohnfilms.com
Subject-Swiss Army Man
Name & mailing address

Outrageously fun and deeply affecting, Swiss Army Man is a gonzo buddy comedy that is the feature film debut of acclaimed music video directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan (collectively known as DANIELS, and responsible for the visionary “Turn Down For What” video, among many others). Bursting with limitless creativity in both form and content, Swiss Army Man goes from the absurd to the emotional to the whimsical to the profound and back again.

Hank (Paul Dano) is stranded on a deserted island, having given up all hope of ever making it home again. But one day everything changes when a corpse named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on shore; the two become fast friends…