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┬ádecisions 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

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Another Me (2013)

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Mildly disturbing but mostly lacking of suspense, this is a weird kind of film that has arty moments and a general substance but it feels like it could have gone deeper with the whole family drama instead of focusing on the fog filled horror it looks like.

Keen photographer and chosen lead for ‘Macbeth’ is Fay Delussey (Sophie Turner), who grows increasingly tormented by the fact someone is mimicking her when she’s not there. Her home life isn’t much better either as she’s got a very ill father (Rhys Ifans) and a mum who’s cheating on him. As the visions become more real, Fay attempts making herself different but that won’t stop the other version of her.

It looks good this film, a lot of shots are set up very nicely which give the film an agreeable atmosphere. I can describe it as a haunting quality which is also felt by the music, Michael Price’s score elevating the moody mystery of the movie. It doesn’t just look good though, there is a fine concept here, the idea of someone or something past the grave shadowing your movements and messing with your mind are dealt with in an okay manner.

Spanish born Isabel Coixet directs and writes this feature with a grip on the twin like horror, the paranoia is felt if nothing else. The parallel to Fay getting the part of Lady Macbeth and then the developing notion of madness, ghosts and death is a great touch to be honest and I liked the film for that vibe. What doesn’t work are the less than well delivered voice overs from the lead which aren’t powerful or interesting, the plot could have been masterful in a straight drama instead and for a long time you wonder what the purpose of the drama teacher is and even afterwards he doesn’t make much difference. Also, the thought of mistaken identity is all well and good but it takes perhaps a step too far with a fellow drama student deciding to transform herself like Fay just to question who could be making Fay lose it.

Sophie Turner is convincing as the emotional centrepiece, her crumbling mental state is performed very well, even if some of the dialogue she delivers in a less than immersive way. Rhys Ifans does well as the sick dad, his pure love for his daughter and what he did in the past being acted in the right way to deliver that exposition as subtly as possible. Geraldine Chaplin is a good presence as the nosy neighbour we all have had at some time, her disagreements or general moaning about the lift make the story more realistic. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is a passionate man and teacher, but doesn’t sell the role as he just appears in the film spewing notes on how to act The Scottish Play.

It’s really not a bad film, it has faults and could have been more special, but a solid presence from Turner, a hazy nightmarish veneer over the narrative and some suitable music make it a lazy day watch if nothing else.

5.5/10