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Film / Snowden

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Snowden is a 2016 biographical political thriller film directed by Oliver Stone based on the books The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena. The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as eponymous Whistleblower, Edward Snowden, with Tom Wilkinson, Zachary Quinto and Nicolas Cage in supporting roles.

Disillusioned with the intelligence community, top contractor Edward Snowden leaves his job at the National Security Agency. He now knows that a virtual mountain of data is being assembled to track all forms of digital communication — not just from foreign governments and terrorist groups, but from ordinary Americans. When Snowden decides to leak this classified information, he becomes a traitor to some, a hero to others and a fugitive from the law.

This film provides examples of:

  • Beeping Computer: Computers in the movie make beeping sounds when being operated.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: What Edward realizes is going on and seeks to expose.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • While Ed starts the film idolizing America, seeing how much the USA spies on its own citizens and how corrupt the system can be slowly wears him down.
    • After seeing what the NSA did under George W. Bush, he couldn't be happier to hear Barack Obama say he's not going to continue Bush's program. Ed is very disappointed to find out that Obama actually didn't change anything.
  • Character Development: At the start of the film, Ed's point of view is My Country, Right or Wrong, but witnessing the corruption and questionable methods of the NSA, he slowly realizes that America isn't really that different from what it calls threats.
  • Composite Character: The character of O'Brian is a composite of a few people and not an actual individual.
  • Cyber Punk Is Techno: Techno music is played in a club scene in a movie about cybercrimes.
  • Dramatization: The movie plot overall is very accurate to the real events. One of the artistic licenses taken was Snowden using the Rubik's cube to smuggle data from the NSA. Snowden never revealed how exactly he managed to get the data.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Snowden encounters one when joining the basic training in the Army.
  • Fan Disservice: There's a sex scene between Ed and Lindsey, played by the very attractive Shailene Woodley, but Ed's paranoia over the strong possibility that someone is watching them make it difficult to find anything erotic in it.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Ed states that he had the know-how and skills to stay anonymous after leaking the files if he so wanted, but intentionally left a trail so that his co-workers wouldn't be blamed and punished for it.
  • Historical Beauty Update: Glenn Greenwald isn't necessarily a bad-looking guy, but he's not quite as handsome as Zachary Quinto who plays him here.
  • Hitler Ate Sugar: Averted, in that the argument is used correctly. When one of Ed's collegues mentions that while their job may be in a legal grey area, they cannot be arrested for doing it since they work for the government. Ed points out that the Nuremberg trials saw the arrest and execution of several German civil workers who (claimed they) were Just Following Orders.
  • Huge Holographic Head: In one scene, Corbin O'Brian is video-chatting with Snowden via an intimidating huge screen.
  • Go into the Light: When Snowden leaves the NSA center for the last time, he is bathed in the light coming from the end of the tunnel which symbolizes his transition into a new life.
  • Ludicrous Precision: When Snowden bumps into Gabriel at the NSA's command center, he asks him how long he's been working there, upon which Gabriel replies "three years, two months, and five days".
  • Mononymous Biopic Title: Snowden.
  • Real-Person Epilogue: The real Edward Snowden appears at the end of the movie addressing the audience with some final lines of his own.
  • Tactful Translation: When Snowden shows up at a bankster venue, a Russian diplomat tells his interpreter: "This man is either a fool or a spy. Thank him and tell him to piss off." Snowden doesn't understand Russian and the interpreter says politely: "Mr. Debrinin asks your business card, please."
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A title card before the end credits reveals that Snowden and his girlfriend are now living together in Moscow.