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Let’s face it. We live in a world built upon secrets. This isn’t anything new. It happens in homes, it happens in relationships, it happens in sports, it happens in business. What’s interesting is that the majority of people are fine with secrets…as long as they’re privy to them. That is a big double standard. Coincidentally, in addition to living in world built up secrets we also flip flop on our stances depending or not if we agree that the end justifies the means. Subjectivity, isn’t it great? One individual shook things up in an epic way and whether or not you personally agree with his actions, Edward Snowden will go down as one of the biggest criminals in US history as well as one the country’s most polarizing individuals as well.

Ed Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is just an ambitious young man who wants to make a difference in the country he knows and loves. So much so in fact that he enlists into the armed forces and is willing to make the same brave sacrifices that so many before have already made. Unfortunately for Ed, his will is stronger than his physical body and he must bow out of this pursuit for medical reasons. These circumstances lead him into a life a of zeros and ones…the world of computers and data. As it turns out, he’s quite the prodigy and catches the eye of a few high ranking officials. One such official is Corbin O’Brian (Rhys Ifans) who accepts Ed into the CIA with open arms and great aspirations. Ed is just as eager to make his country proud but blind ambition can be a dangerous and tricky thing. He eventually begins to question the inner workings and motives of the government of which he holds in the highest of regards. Question leads to doubt, doubt leads to place virtually impossible to come back from. It is only then that Ed comes to the realization that certain things are fundamentally broken and must be fixed by any means necessary.

With the story of Edward Snowden still being so fresh on most people’s minds it’s kind of tricky to make a movie that still feels fresh and unpredictable to a point. One advantage working in the new movie’s favor is that fact that Snowden is being told from the perspective (mostly) of the man himself at the center of this entire controversy. The majority of what’s been reported in the media has come from the side that opposes his actions. Now audiences will be treated to a somewhat different narrative. The other advantage here is having a talent like Oliver Stone to orchestrate this cyber scandal. Stone definitely has a knack for such things judging by the success of some of his previous projects such as Platoon (1986), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), JFK (1991) and World Trade Center (2006) to name a few. When it comes to political or war movies, Oliver Stone knows how to get it done, and effectively for the most part.

On the casting end of things, simply put, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Walk (2015) is outstanding. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, he captures the true essence of the real Edward Snowden and again, whether you agree with his actions or not, he is a real treat to watch perform. As with most Oliver Stone directed movies, the casting is a definite strength. In addition to previously mentioned Rhys Ifans (CBS’s Elementary), some of the actors of note are Shailene Woodley (The Divergent Series, Melissa Leo (The Equalizer (2014)), Zachary Quinto (NBC’s Heroes), Tom Wilkinson (Selma (2014)) and Nicolas Cage (National Treasure (2004))…yes that Nicolas Cage!

As I’ve eluded to this numerous times already, audiences will be divided and maybe even be persuaded to look at the big picture differently. There are compelling arguments for both sides here without a doubt. The big plus to Snowden is that even though the real Edward Snowden was a part of this creative process, it isn’t done is such a way to try to convince viewers one way or the other. What it will do is entertain and give food for thought, most likely leading to further discussions down the road. I don’t know about you but thought provoking entertaining movies are generally a delight to experience and that is why you should check this one out. See it in theaters today and let the debates begin.

Snowden is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Carl Wheeler

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