One of the most intriguing documentaries of 2014 was "Citizenfour," Laura Poltras' Oscar-winning report of her meetings with Edward Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald in a Hong Kong hotel; "Citizenfour" was Snowden's on-line name. For this scripted version of his story, the central issue is unchanged: the secret surveillance of American citizens by the NSA and its massive scope.
Writer/Director Oliver Stone (""Wall Street Money Never Sleeps") working from a script on which he collaborated with Kieran Fitzgerald, brings us his R-rated version based on two more books on the topic. Despite some ramped-up dramatic scenes, the story is the same, plus we now have a face for Snowden's girlfriend. By the way, Stone loves super-close closeups, so be prepared to see every scar, flaw, pore and whisker in many scenes.
- * Joseph Gordon Levitt ("The Lookout") is excellent as Edward Snowden, who lands in the world of international intrigue too bright, too young, too observant, and too honest. Not a good combination.
- * Melissa Leo ("The Big Short") is Laura Poltras, the award-winning filmmaker who films the interviews and publishes her work. She also becomes a friend...
- * Zachary Quinto ("Star Trek") plays journalist Glenn Greenwald, a multilingual journalist who blasts through a bureaucratic stone wall to help get Snowden's exposè published in a timely way.
- * Rhys Ifans ("Madame Bovary") is Corbin O'Brien, this time my favorite Welsh chameleon plays American as apple pie, but his character serves to illustrate how gifted our hero is and shows why he was given such high-priority jobs at such a early age.
- * Shailene Woodley ("The Divergent") is Lindsay Mills, a lovely young woman who loves to debate. With her yin to Snowden's yang; liberal versus conservative; adventurous opposed to cautious, she brings a lively sparkle to his life.
- * Tom Wilkinson ("Selma" he played LBJ) Ewan MacAskill is with the Guardian, a trusted London newspaper. He feels it should back Snowden and is willing to pressure the powers that be.
- * Nicholas Cage ("Left Behind") Hank Forrester is working on the next generation cryptologist after Enigma; he hopes Snowden can help....
- * Timothy Olyphant ("This is Where I Leave You") CIA Agent Geneva shows greenhornSnowden "how things work."
- * Ben Schnetzer ("The Book Thief") Gabriel Sol calls Snowden "Snow White" because he is so innocent and naīve. He keeps warning him to watch out for that poisoned apple.
- * Scott Eastwood ("Suicide Squad") Trevor James is head honcho for a bunch of whiz kids who are supposed to find security flaws but who are then are derided as hackers (they hack the hackers!).
Snowden's major claim is that NSA is no longer fighting terrorism, but instead is amassing global information for economic control. NSA has created a Dragnet on the world, even though he has been told "A job can't be criminal when you're working for the government."
We do a double take when we realize that in the final scenes, the "real" Edward Snowden is playing himself. The casting by Lucy Bevan and Mary Vernieu is excellent! I realize that most of you haven't seen the documentary, in which case, you will find this movie both interesting and deeply disturbing.