Review: Snowden


Making a true story more cinematic than documentary is a delicate and precarious process that ‘Snowden’ does not quite achieve. Although well cast, the film progresses like a truck up a hill, with the plot interrupted by off-topic romantic tensions and unnecessary story-additions. As such, the potential impact and intrigue that the plot should give the viewer is lost in a 139 minute cinematic cluster.

The film follows the events before and after the leak of classified NSA data by Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in 2013… If only it were that simple. Rather, filmmakers decided to have the story jump from a hotel in Hong Kong, to a military training and hospital montage in 2004, to tests in 2006, back to Hong Kong in 2013 and so on. Chuck in a Nicholas Cage cameo and here you have a broken and confusing tale.

Along with the flashbacks and stop/starting main plot, which by its own nature is interesting and engaging, there is also a side plot following Snowden’s romantic troubles with girlfriend Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley) – which does nothing but interrupt the story and drag the run time. Interruptions continue with the addition of dramatic scenes to an already exacerbated story. It seems that in an attempt to make Snowden relatable, the main focus of the film is blurred.

Such plot diversions do not take away from the performances, like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s perfectly bland depiction of Edward Snowden, and Rhys Ifans unlikeable Corbin O’Brian. The support acts also build a relatable and believable cast.

The story of Edward Snowden, from dedicated patriot to whistleblower, is in and of itself interesting. It is a shame, therefore, that ‘Snowden’ did not just focus solely on this and instead included non-character building military training and romantic interruptions. However, with fine acting and an engaging main plot, ‘Snowden’ is worth a watch for the lazy political mind, or if you want another reason to shake a fist at the United States.


We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.