After a tedious day of work, someone drives back home. The only thought that lingers their mind is the strong urge to rest in bed. Being exhausted, they slowly take off their clothes piece by piece. Starting with one sock, then the other, the jacket, dress shirt and finally the pants, it takes almost five minutes to be undressed. Jumping into bed with a short shirt that barely covers the bottom lace of the underwear, they sleep in an extremely comfortable yet inappropriate posture, scratching their body. However, what if this whole moment was exposed to the public? What if one’s every movement was watched by someone else?
Snowden (2016), directed by Oliver Stone and written by Kieran Fitzgerald, is an autobiographical movie about the eponymous character, Edward Snowden. He was the one who played a big role at the Global Surveillance Disclosures. Before that incident, he used to work at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as a subcontractor in the National Security Agency (NSA), decoding the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) for collecting data on Internet sites. Then, he realized the deeply infiltrated NSA surveillance throughout the whole world, by surveilling phone calls, emails, web-cameras and reaching out to almost every well-known network platform such as Facebook and Google. Later, from June 6 to September 21, 2013, Snowden risked his life to consecutively disclose the world-wide invasion of privacy to journalists of The Guardian.
Earlier, a documentary named Citizenfour (2014) was released handling the same issue, yet the movie Snowden has the originality and has drawn people’s attention more than the former one. Not handling the plot only about Snowden’s disclosure, the movie focuses on why Snowden chose to expose the secret by explaining the nine years of his life before the incident occurred. This is why the movie keenly deals with Snowden’s actions and his emotions. His struggles of acquiescing to the infringement of privacy were depicted in an acute manner, foreshadowed by his actions and words.
It first takes place in Hong Kong for a confidential meeting with a journalist named Glenn Greenwald from The Guardian and director Laura Poitras, hinting that it is the place the disclosure might happen. The story expands by Snowden recalling the past. Nine years before, Edward Snowden, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, was attending the United States (U.S.) Army. He was willing to take part in the Iraq War which was the worst and most intense war happening at that time, showing his excessive devotion to his own nation. The extreme patriotism of Snowden makes the audience wonder what made this patriotic man turn away from his nation?
▲ Poster of Snowden. PROVIDED BY OPEN ROAD FILMS
His act of immediately changing his job to the CIA emphasizes his patriotism. During a military training session, Snowden was severely injured, broke both legs and got discharged. Nevertheless, he did not cease to serve his country. Right after the discharge, he joined the CIA and wholly took advantage of his prodigal ability of hacking. Even from a seemingly trivial fight with his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, played by Shailene Woodley, because of him not spending much time with her and rather indulging his work continuously, the movie cleverly depicts his faith in the nation. The first half of the movie entirely concentrates on his will to sacrifice anything when it comes to the U.S. and continues to confuse the audience by describing his completely opposed stance toward the nation.
Yet, this action could be interpreted as that he was ignorant about the corrupted and deeply rooted problem beneath the U.S. government. Moreover, this implies that the whole set-up about his characteristics was for the big backlash, foreboding that his immense responsibility and devotion toward the nation would backfire as an extreme guilt, after being enlightened about this unpleasant truth. The truth did assault him in a worse form, making him extremely shocked, even giving him a seizure because of the severe stress caused from it. Fraught with the utter disappointment and unbearable guilt, he collected information from the NSA and headed to Hong Kong for the disclosure, leading back to the first scene.
The movie did an excellent job on depicting one’s mind and the complicated reasons of his motif, yet it seems to be a bit tedious when it comes to the whole plot. Since the film is more focused on Snowden’s autobiography, it does not directly analyze the incident in different or unique viewpoints or facets. The movie only displays Snowden’s reaction and his history. The movie is based on the recent issue, and it does not have the twist to surprise the audiences. This is why the movie made the reason of his whistle-blowing less overt and required the audience to be keen about the details. This indirect manner of speaking does not help to clarify the answer to people who seek for the reason and different perspectives about the incident.
▲ Snowden being perplexed. PROVIDED BY OPEN ROAD FILMS
To Snowden, the whole plot itself, the recollection of the nine years, would have taken only a few minutes in reality. Yet, those complex emotions and experiences beneath his memories deeply affected him to shout out immediate violations to the world. The movie constantly yells the message that it is a pity that one person’s bravery to confront the authorities and reveal the violation of the entire world’s privacy is being defined as treachery.
What resonated in director Oliver Stone’s mind was that Snowden’s action was not confined by the law of one nation. Snowden valuing the greater good and universal principle of human rights, rather than one nation’s law and the duty, seems to be an action which could be compared with that of a saint. As mentioned before, his responsibility shifted from his work to serving the nation. However, his participation of the deeper realm only revealed an unpleasant truth. His action as a whistleblower was just another form of his responsibility, the pure thought setting aside the judging of interests. Snowden has the significance of being a bold movie to handle such a controversial issue in a smooth flow by elaborating on one person’s history.
1. Secure Socket Layer: The standard security technology which enables to connect web server and a browser in encryption