The Bock’s Office: ‘Snowden’ a smart but singular story | CraigDailyPress.com

The Bock’s Office: ‘Snowden’ a smart but singular story

Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) receives a polygraph test in "Snowden." The movie is about the controversial title figure, who leaked a multitude of intelligence documents in 2013.

While you're watching a movie like "Snowden," there's no shortage of reminders that people may well be watching right back. Put electrical tape over your webcam, stick your cell phone in the microwave all you want, Big Brother is watching, so you might as well give him a show.

If you go…

"Snowden," rated R

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 138 minutes

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo and Zachary Quinto

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

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Following the events of Sept. 11, Edward Joseph Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) wants to serve his country in some fashion. While he is unable to cut it physically within the military, he determines his intellect could provide much more help in the war on terror in the field of cyber-security.

A position with the CIA takes the young man across the globe, but it's when Edward finds a role with the National Security Agency starts to see much more of the world — the growing concept of digital surveillance is one that can do a lot of good for the American government, though the ethics of some uncharted territory starts to unnerve Snowden more and more.

Gordon-Levitt is exactly the right actor to play a man who starts out as an absolute Boy Scout and soon finds himself questioning all his beliefs the more he observes of the behind-the-scenes dealings of the country to which he's pledged his allegiance. Wan and worrisome at any given moment even before he gets in with the NSA, Snowden's nervous energy requires a fine touch the actor achieves perfectly.

Shailene Woodley provides a warm counterpoint to Ed's aloof, sometimes brooding temperament as girlfriend Lindsay Mills, an artistic sort whose politics may differ from her beau when they first meet online, though his escalating paranoia may be too much for her to handle.

Rhys Ifans and Nicolas Cage offset each other in a peculiar fashion as two of Snowden's CIA mentors, the former as polished, precise, ends-justify-the-means Corbin O'Brian, who has no difficulty making connections, and the latter as Hank Forrester, a relic of a bygone age who continues to warn our hero to sleep with one eye open.

The story of the massive leakage of confidential information that shocked the world unfolds starting from the precipice as Snowden meets with a documentarian (Melissa Leo) and pair of journalists (Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson) to unload the details he feels must be divulged.

Let's be honest — before you even see him onscreen, you've already decided whether you view Edward as the patron saint of digital accountability or as the biggest traitor since Benedict Arnold. Likewise, there's no mistaking which way the filmmaker at the helm leans, and you likely already knew that going into a movie with Oliver Stone's name attached.

Stone's screenplay, written with Kieran Fitzgerald, serves mainly to fill in the gaps about the guy who rose to notoriety in 2013 for his actions and still has yet to return to American soil. Some tidbits we need more than others — the abundance of fuzzy moments with his gal is far too great — but it's the commentary about living in the age of too much information that rings truest.

The fallout of Snowden's big move matters greatly, and that's what receives the least attention by Stone, who uses most of his effort showing us the title character's motivation, curiously single-minded in something that affects the entire planet.

Stone has courted controversy in the past, but the further he goes in his career as a director, the less daring he gets, and "Snowden" is proof. A well-made film about an important figure of the day has less emotional charge than it should from someone who's chronicled the fieriest moments of the 20th century from multiple viewpoints.

Also, let's not forget the futility of a parable about online surveillance for a generation that demands to be documented. Just saying…

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

If you go…

“Snowden,” rated R

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 138 minutes

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo and Zachary Quinto

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.