*** out of four
In Oliver Stone's based on fact Snowden, the National Security Agency employee, Edward Snowden, who leaked thousands of classified U.S. government documents containing illegal surveillance methods to the public is portrayed as a hero. However, some would say he is a traitor to his country and that he also stole and leaked extremely sensitive information regarding military and nuclear technologies. But this is Stone's movie with his point of view. Does it work as compelling drama? Yes, it does. Does Stone and the actor portraying Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) give us a sympathetic protagonist we become invested in? Again, yes.
Through flashback, we see Snowden's failed career as a marine, his entrance into the NSA, his strained relationship with his girlfriend, Lindsay (Shailene Woodley), because of the secrecy of his job, and his increased paranoia that he, himself, is being monitored by the government.
Gordon-Levitt delivers a fine performance as a conflicted guy who wants to do the right thing. In fact, I think he embodies the role so well that I felt it wasn't necessary to switch to the real Edward Snowden during the final interview segment of the film. This little trick is actually kind of jarring.
Stone thankfully eschews his usual hyper-kinetic style (Natural Born Killers, Any Given Sunday) for a more quiet and ominous mood. The movie, running 134-minutes, feels long-ish, but mostly plays like a good paranoia thriller in the vein of France Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974). And this is a perfect companion piece to the 2014 Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour.