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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 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.


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This film provides examples of:

  • Adorkable: Edward. Being played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt helps.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
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  • 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.
  • 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.
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