Not so long ago, everyone's idea of surveillance was James Bond's camera in a pen. Since then the internet has happened, and now prying eyes are everywhere. You go outside and your every move can be monitored. You stay indoors and your every move can be monitored. There's only one safe place on this planet where you can move freely, and that's Bournemouth; the reason being that it's so full of dull, old people, no one cares to know what they're up to. Imagine an area swamped with Grandpa Simpson types and you'll get the idea.
With this new technology comes a great responsibility. But despite laws to the contrary, you wouldn't necessarily expect the US government to deceive the public and poke their nose into their business. but that's what they did. And still do. But one man decided to tell the world.
It was only down to an unfortunate accident that prevented Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) from a career in the military. This lead him on an altogether different path. With his aptitude for computers, Snowden ends up working for the CIA where he feels he can still offer his services to his country.
Turns out he's really good at what he does. Unfortunately, due to official secret acts, he can't tell anyone about it, including his girlfriend Lindsay (Shailene Woodley). After some dubious practices by the US in Geneva where he's posted, Snowden decides to resign. Luckily for him, his skill-set means that he's able to pick up work as a private contractor.
The US government is still keen to hire him, and he still wants to serve his country the best way he can, so the arrangement works out for both parties. However, time and time again he comes across information that doesn't sit well with him; the US government is all too keen on snooping illegally against its own citizens under a very broad umbrella of national security.
Snowden decides that enough is enough, and believes that he only has one option: to go to the press and let the people know what's really going on. However, he's fully aware that if he does this, there's no turning back and that it will make him an enemy of not only his own government, but the country he loves.
With its controversial material, it's no wonder that Oliver Stone wanted to helm this project. He's made a career of directing films with overtly social/political themes beginning with Salvador and Platoon (which he won an Oscar for) in 1986, and including Wall Street, JFK and Nixon.
In recent years however, his films haven't made quite the same impact as a lot of his previous work. Snowden however, is a return to the director's wheelhouse. After all, it's a biography of one man's struggle against his own government, to inform the world of their blatant wrong-doing.
Despite having all the right ingredients for an Oliver Stone film, the director himself is curiously off target with its execution. The pacing just isn't up to his usually high standards; it never feels like Snowden is ever in any real peril at any point during his career. The closest it gets is when he's passing through a security point at work, but even then, he doesn't appear to be in any real danger.
The film isn't helped either with being just over two hours long. Stone offers just too much information, much of which could have been edited out to make it a zippier experience.
That said, Gordon-Levitt gives a strong performance, albeit one on the dull side; this isn't his fault, after all if the real Snowden isn't the life and soul of any party, Gordon-Levitt couldn't exactly give him a sexy Mission Impossible make-over.
Stone also gets an impressive supporting cast to help out too, which includes Tom Wilkinson, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Rhys Ifans and Nic Cage.
As far as his storytelling abilities are concerned though, the director, on this effort, has lost his usual cutting edge. Let's just hope that it doesn't blow the whistle on his impressive career.