Movie Review: Maybe Snowden Isn’t So Bad

In addition to Oliver Stone’s seemingly perfect ability to weave real footage in and out of the film, the movie plays with its audience’s emotioneven for tough-to-break patriots like myself.


If I had told you that my opinion of Edward Snowden, a whistleblower who endangered national security in the eyes of many, would drastically change after a mere 134 minutes of a Hollywood film, I would have told you that you’re just as crazy as the people offering therapeutic Play-Doh and coloring books to graduate students at the University of Michigan. But if you told me it came from the God-given ability of the incomparable Oliver Stone, I’d seriously reconsider, and perhaps immerse myself in a Mickey Mouse coloring book.

While perked up in my dorm room watching Spotlight on a random week night, I knew instantly which film was going to be the winner of the 88th Academy Awards. This year it’s not any different. Snowden will be bringing home the top prize Feb. 26, 2017, and there’s no doubt in my mind.

Of course, at this point, you may be wondering something along the lines of: either, a) How on earth can some random college “conservative” come to be supportive of leftist-conspiratorial propaganda that attempts to create sympathy for a man accused of espionage?

Or, b) Where I can purchase some of those Mickey Mouse coloring books?

Well, you have a right to be confused—that’s for sure. I only even watched “Snowden,” after a friend, who considers himself somewhat of a movie critic, told me about how great Edward Snowden is one day. Of course, being the Michigan Review writer I am, I only ended up choosing to watch the movie to point out liberal ignorance and find fault with every little fact so that I could completely destroy my friend in an argument the following day.

With that being said, that’s not at all what happened. Snowden follows the life of a young self-taught aspiring CIA programmer, who describes the most important day in his life as Sept. 11, 2001. A patriot, Snowden sought to serve his country in ways other than through the military after being medically discharged.

However, upon learning about various techniques the United States government uses to spy on the American public, including software which enables the government to take control of a random users’ webcam, an increasingly troubled Snowden faced a moral dilemma. Should he inform the American public of the lying testimonies, illegal surveillance, and blatant disregard for privacy, or should he just call it a day and continue his multi-million dollar contracting for the NSA/CIA?

In addition to Oliver Stone’s seemingly perfect ability to weave real footage in and out of the film, the movie plays with its audience’s emotion—even for tough-to-break patriots like myself. I came in with strong ideals and a closed-mind about how to interpret the movie, but left questioning and confused.

The conservative side of me screamed to avoid drawing sympathy with someone who blatantly disregarded national security, but the tiny ounce of libertarian I keep locked away began to dominate my conscience. I must confess I was unable to scrutinize the movie in front of my friend the following day.

The film has boasted praise from New York Times columnist A.O. Scott to Owen Gleiberman of Variety, as well as from various other well-renowned critics. According to Scott, “this movie won’t necessarily dazzle or enrage you, and I’m not sure that it wants to. What it wants—what Mr. Snowden himself would’ve wanted—is to bother you, to fill you with doubt about the good intentions of those who gather your data and tell you it’s for your own protection.”

Besides being an excellently directed film comprised of Oscar-worthy acting, Snowden’s greatest contribution is in analyzing the merits of government surveillance. As described by a younger Snowden in the movie, the government monitors individuals who are as distant as 3-to-4 people from potential suspects. Although the government may be initially monitoring someone on the “no fly” list, they are also closely watching people who may not even have the slightest idea of who the suspect is. This is due to the unlikeliness of knowing someone three degrees of connection away from you.

Some of Snowden’s releases have been frightening to the public such as Optic Nerve (GCHQ), a mass surveillance program ran by British intelligence, which captures random webcam footage of Yahoo users. The movie portrays a troubled Snowden, who places bandaids over top the cameras of his own computers, even with the potential of creating a fight with his long-time girlfriend Lindsay Mills.

According to some sources employed by The Guardian, between 3 and 11 percent of the images captured by the program were sexually explicit in nature. Of course, this information was a large part of the news when the files were released, but Snowden makes it clear: If you have any inclinations to ignore unwanted surveillance, you are sorely mistaken.

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