Snowden (2016)

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With a neat common theme of modern like gloss layered over this political drama it’s hard not to feel some moments are heightened for cinematic effect, but the true life and accounts its portraying are truly interesting, thrilling and I liked the film quite a lot.

After being ruled out of the U.S Army, Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) explores his passion for computers and joins the CIA impressing Corbin (Rhys Ifans). At the same time, Snowden is developing a connection with photographer and liberal Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley). As his roles develop, Edward Snowden questions the ideas of these huge government groups and winds up releasing date about American security reviling him as the notorious whistleblower.

I do find that with these type of films, there is never a running jump as to who the director wants to place their chips with, leaving us to walk out mulling over our own thoughts. That for me is something annoying and at least here, director Oliver Stone makes it clear that he’s on Snowden’s side. Of course that gives this movie an obvious bias but he’s having the confidence to put his foot down and direct his own mind.

Edward Snowden was someone I’d always heard of, knew of the whistle blowing status and what he had done to a small degree, but this movie explores a lot more which is great. I liked what the whole feature had to say, as it doesn’t just shed light on this man and how not only his work changed his decisions and therefore life but gives us enough to make an opinion even if Stone is leaning us to the fact that what he did was a necessary thing to kick-start a change in American surveillance.

I too will stake my place and agree that what Snowden was for the benefit of a hopeful world, with big countries needing to be more open about their spying on everyday people. The opposite side is agreeable too, concerning how he definitely threatened pivotal date to possible terrorists and stole information but then this is why I liked the film because there’s a huge meaty conversation starter to be had about the actions of an ethical and technological 29 year old.

Structurally the movie is done as you’d imagine, starting at the most recent point in his timeline as he’s about to leak the information before jumping back every now and then with the the newest 2013 scenes interspersed from time to time. It’s never confusing or muddled and sometimes the scenes blend nicely together. There are some beautiful little touches, for example the kaleidoscope hotel corridor as Snowden walks along, almost a visual parallel to the different stands of his career.

What hit me most is when we watch him use a program that hops from a tracked person if interest and links him/her to contacts they have, then contacts those people have and so on and so on. That was an alarming realisation that I’d just ignorantly never thought to think about and it really demonstrates how mostly innocent people are being watched constantly. It’s all cleverly awash with a neon blue and ends on a graphic circle melding into a shot of Snowden’s eye before pulling out and seeing Edward watch that program unfold.

Gordon-Levitt is great, the change to his voice matches the sound of Snowden very well and he looks remarkably like him as the stubble appears. Woodley is radiant as the antithesis to her partner, she acts playfully but shows emotion too as his commitment to work affects their relationship. Rhys Ifans is a sort of formidable character, on the brink of villainy because of what he knows, this characteristic is illuminated further as his faces looms over Snowden on a screen through a Facetime call. Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto and Tom Wilkinson aren’t in it too much but do enough to become believable intrepid allies to the cause and likewise Nicolas Cage has little screen-time but is a friendly if typically Cage-like role helping Edward out.

The very biased construction of the film, shining Snowden in a radiant light might be off-putting to some, but he is an icon whichever way you look at him. There’s plenty to think about after seeing this and for me that just outweighs the idealistic siding they’ve taken to their own hero.

7/10

Swordfish (2001)

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Attempting to be cool and clever, this action film about computer crime becomes anything but those two things. Instead it feels incredibly cheesy, logically rubbish and at times plain dull. The forced sex appeal of making one of their stars go topless for even more insane fees does nothing to make the film better.

Top hacker Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) is offered a deal by Ginger (Halle Berry) to assist the plans of her boss Gabriel Shear (John Travolta). The problem is Stanley is a wanted man and can’t touch a computer again but wanting to see his daughter again and not anger the touchy dangerous Shear, he realises that he must hack money out of government funds.

It could have been a good film, there is plenty of room to make this plot stylish and tense but instead it feels like a washed up 90’s action crime flick without much action or indeed crime. Aside from a couple of so-so moments including the opening scene reveal to who Gabriel is surrounded by and the interrogation room shooting, this film tries outlandish ways to excite the audience and heck, even a bus soaring through the sky by helicopter can’t save it.

Dominic Sena, who had previously directed ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ tries revving back into gear with this technological film, but there isn’t any sleekness or glossy captivation to be found. Sena seems to miss the point and brushes over scenes that could hold more interest to paint a clichéd narrative with no excitement.

Of course this isn’t all his fault as Skip Woods, the screenwriter skips on logic to bash together a barmy shortcoming that he probably believed as explosive entertainment. There are explosions but aside from making Michael Bay happy, they don’t do much to stop this film from being average. It’s as if Woods was trying to be calculating and smart when writing the antagonist, but Travolta’s opening monologue is not a patch on the wit of Tarantino styled speech and when he mentions Hollywood being unrealistic, well boy this film fits right into that bill.

Hugh Jackman shows us the earlier potential he has now proven but aside from grimacing at having to go back to a life or crime or staring at many screens he doesn’t do much as an engaging protagonist. John Travolta, however hammy he may be as the villain actually is a breath of fun, there’s a clear sense of danger to his character and he seems to be enjoying every line. Halle Berry and her first topless scene become the biggest thing she does in this movie as she doesn’t do much apart from possibly being something and then not. Don Cheadle may as well be on auto-pilot playing an FBI agent as he doesn’t having anything extensive to do, maybe rolling down a huge hill with Jackman like a cartoon disaster would have been something, acting surprised that none of them broke their legs.

It’s beyond ridiculous, but it rises with a good set-up and a enjoyable villain before slumping with uninteresting typing, far-fetched sequences and a dire script that got a green-light somehow. Perhaps Skip Woods is an advanced hacker.

4.5/10