Movie Review: “Snowden”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto, Melisssa Leo, Tom Wilkinson, Joely Richardson
Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone has been more hit than miss as a filmmaker over the past few years, but even his most successful work sometimes leaves a little more to be desired. Stone is a filmmaker that likes to take big swings with his movies – the ending of “Snowden” being a perfect example – and sometimes they don’t always payoff. In the case of “Snowden,” however, most of them do, making this biopic/thriller the director’s most consistent movie he’s made since 1999’s “Any Given Sunday.”

With this true story, Stone tackles one of recent history’s most divisive figures: Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the man who exposed the NSA’s illegal surveillance of American citizens. The film opens several years before those events, when he was a proud Republican and patriot who wanted to fight in the Iraq War, only to be discharged after breaking his legs in basic training. In 2006, Edward meets and falls in love with Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley), and shortly thereafter, begins working in the CIA’s global communications division, where he immediately questions his orders. For a while, he keeps his mouth shut and his concerns to himself, but after working on the NSA’s massive cyberforce project, Edward can no longer keep what he’s doing a secret while unsuspecting Americans are spied on by their own government. In 2013, Edward travels to Hong Kong with a hard drive containing classified documents exposing the NSA, which he shares with Guardian journalists Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson), as well as the documentary filmmaker behind “Citizenfour,” Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo). Once the story breaks, Snowden becomes a fugitive without a home.

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Gangster fan alert: “Scarface” Blu-ray hits the mean streets today

It’s true. You can say hello to Tony Montana’s little 1080p friends and their DVD buddies in stores nationwide as of right now and, naturally, the gangstery promotional wheels have been turning. We were lucky enough to be invited too a DVD release party at which fans of director Brian De Palma and writer Oliver Stone’s 1983 gangland spectacle got to view a pretty interesting Q&A featuring producer Martin Bregman and “Scarface” cast members Robert Loggia, F. Murray Abraham, Steven Bauer (who turns out to be something of an unembarrassed fanboy for the film which largely launched his career), and a distinctively, er, regal Al Pacino.

For a limited time, you can actually check out the complete Q&A from the event for yourself via Livestream.

A couple of interesting thoughts from the Q&A. A lot of props were given to hip hop artists for their part in turning “Scarface” from a movie with a mixed reputation — many of the initial reviews were far from positive — to a movie very many regard as a classic. (The event was followed by a performance by rapper Ludacris.)

A moment this film geek appreciated was when Mr. Pacino recounts how he says the genesis of his “Scarface” began when he saw Howard Hawks’ 1932 “Scarface,” starring Paul Muni as a gangster inspired by Al Capone, at the old Tiffany Theater on the Sunset Strip, at the time one of L.A.’s best revival houses. After the flip we have a short video from the event and maybe a clip or two from the both “Scarfaces.”

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