If one only wanted to watch one film about Edward Snowden, there is absolutely no reason to view Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” over Laura Poitras’ “Citizenfour”. No reason at all. That said, “Snowden” isn’t a bad film, it’s certainly competently-made, it’s just so inferior to such a fantastic film on the exact same subject.
The tone and statements behind the movie are confusing. It flits between being prescriptive and schlocky, to playing it painfully safe. At times it seems to try and frame the entire thing just purely as a character story of Snowden, but it’s probably impossible to make a film on such a divisive figure without coming down on some sort of judgement on him. I got this strange vibe from this movie, that Stone has an informed and developed opinion on the man, but chose to dumb it down to a diluted, cheesy non-committal statement for maximum reach. Maybe I’m wrong. But it’s just so bizarre to see the movie condemn some actions and initiatives so hardly, then fly away from making specific statements on those responsible.
The cast do good work, particularly Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the titular role. The music is hilariously on-the-nose, at times feeling like Stone just Googled “open source hacker music”. The script is formless, most at focus when it’s rolling around in Hollywood cliches, most adrift when in the sections it would be most natural to make some sort of actual statement in.
The film does a decent job of dramatising the most important events of Snowden’s life. “Citizenfour” does a brilliant job of accurately documenting those accurate events. There’s no contest. I give “Snowden” two and a half Rubik’s Cubes, and another Rubik’s Cube, and oh, did I mention how much the film loves Rubik’s Cubes?