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

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The Fault in Our Stars from Ruffell Reviews

The latest installment in my guest review series and this time it comes from Ruffell Reviews who arrives with a fun and personal style of writing and likes to look over DVD releases and posts new material every Sunday, so think of this as a treat for they are reviewing a cinema release and it’s here and ready to read on a Saturday! Enjoy.

See their blog and give a follow over at Ruffell Reviews.

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So I went to go and see ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ and I have to say after sitting there for 2 hours, seeing those credits role and leaving to walk out afterwards, my first thought was… there were no Faults in these Stars my friend. Okay maybe a couple and we will get into them I can assure you but the stars still shined bright all the same! As most of you may already know ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ film is based on the worldwide best selling novel of the same name by John Green, who you may know from his previous novels prior to this one or you may know him as one half of the ‘vlogbrothers’ on YouTube OR you may even just know him simply because of the buzz of this book because that’s exactly how I discovered him, in other words the lazy way of discovering something.  When it was first released back in January 2012 I didn’t pay attention to it at all but had heard everybody going absolutely crazy over this book and some of these people being my own friends but that still didn’t really encourage me to read it, now I don’t think there has been one title out there where I have read the book before seeing the film and it’s not something I plan, it just happens and it was no different with this one! Although after watching I will definitely be checking out the book now. Let’s get in to the actual film shall we?

So the basic outline of the story without giving too much away surrounds a teenage girl called Hazel who is a cancer patient whose life pretty much only revolves around hospital appointments and reality TV shows she watches at home to cope with her own not so fulfilling life you could say, the subject of support groups gets brought up which her mum pretty much forces the poor girl to go to, Hazel FINALLY gives in to attending just to please her. Come on Mum! She just wants to stay at home and watch TV and read that damn book that she goes on about throughout the movie which I must add I don’t know the name of and can’t really be bothered to Google at this moment in time to find out. Where was I? Support groups! Ah yes! At one of the support classes she meets one Augustus Walters who was a cancer patient that has just come out of remission and takes an immediate interest to Hazel which is the start of a story in which you could say Hazel reaches some sort of fulfilment which is what she was perhaps missing, this is something that I can only describe as truly touching without giving too much away.

Now I know what you’re thinking, it’s what most people probably thought going into this movie without reading it first “so boy meets girl, they fall in love, how cliché” it really isn’t like that all in my opinion, I feel the story teaches a lot of morals surrounding life itself and living it to the absolute fullest despite your situation and that is a constant theme in the film, grabbing life by the scruff of the neck and not letting go! I think this is the running theme throughout. Another theme that is played out in the film is the feeling of not taking the people in your life for granted and being really thankful for the people that you have around you, I certainly got that as I was watching and that feeling grew as it went on, I suppose you could say that that ties in with the theme I originally discussed which is living life to the fullest because you never know when your last moment will be and don’t take for granted the people you’re doing these things with because you never know what could happen to them… okay wow that got deep… let’s lighten things up a bit shall we and talk about the cast!

Shailene Woodley plays the role of Hazel who really took me by surprise in this one, I mean not only did I think she done an exceptional job as the character but Shailene is incredibly beautiful, now I am convinced that she is an angel who came to the audition wearing a halo and wings, I think one of the things that made the film more sensitive for me is the fact we are given this delicate subject being played out in a story with the casting of a woman with the sweetest face and the most delicate voice. I must add that this delicate voice also narrates the film too! Bless you Shailene. In a positive way… looking at her just made me want to cry. I’m actually a teddy bear for things like that. Now I am just talking about this from a movie standpoint because as I mentioned before I haven’t read the book (and I’m going to keep saying it till you are sick of it) but I know there are people out there who have read the book that may say differently because of how she is described in it and how her character differs, this is one of many reasons why I am looking forward to reading it personally because for all I know she could be exactly the same which suits me! Now Hazel’s love interest Augustus Walters is played by Ansel Elgort who I enjoyed watching on screen also, his character is very inspiring which is what I bought into with him, this pays homage to the script because of the lines he was given and also not forgetting it pays homage to the book which I’m sure most of the same lines are in there too but I’m sure the book worms can confirm this for me or I will do so myself once I have read it.

So this is primarily a love story about two people okay and when you’re talking about them on screen together I don’t think the chemistry between the two characters was anything special, I mean there were a couple of moments, like literally 2, the chemistry was sort of felt when the two would share a joke but that was about it. I felt as if the chemistry between Hazel and her parents was even better and more chemistry felt to be honest, naturally you would expect that with your parents right? But I’m strictly talking on screen partnership here. Let’s just say Hazel & Augustus weren’t Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper chemistry level and definitely not at Rachel McAdams and Ryan Reynolds chemistry heights, it just seemed very forced and awkward for the most part. The Forced in Our (Movie) Stars. I need to mention and talk about some other actors in this film who I think deserve to be mentioned because in case you guys didn’t know already the film doesn’t feature only two characters believe it or not. OH YES! The first is Nat Wolff who plays Isaac, who is a friend of Augustus’s that suffers from eye cancer that also attends the support groups, the reason I would like to talk about him is because I really did enjoy his role within the film, he is quite a quirky character and a couple of the gags I enjoyed in the film featured him, his story intrigued me because of how the character develops like whilst he deals with the things going on in his own life he also tries to juggle everything else that is going on around him which is never an easy thing to do which made me really relate to him . William Dafoe makes an appearance as the Green Gobli… no I’m kidding but no matter what film I see him in the Green Goblin stigma will never budge, not me for anyway, DAMN YOU SPIDER-MAN! Yeah but in this he plays Peter Van Houten who is the author of the book that Hazel has read 50 million times that I have already mentioned that I forgot the name of and as we progress I still cannot be bothered to Google the name so sorry not sorry. I’m not going to reveal how he comes into it and what his role is specifically but he is arguably in one of the most powerful scenes in the entire film which I think he done an amazing job with, so look out for it people!

Now let’s not take anything away from the story, the bad chemistry between the two main characters didn’t ruin it for me by any means. The whole thing felt like a roller-coaster because as an audience member sitting there watching this thing, I felt as if I was being pulled in quite a few directions which kept me on my toes whilst watching which is never a bad thing. The nature of what I was about to watch I did anticipate this to be honest so that didn’t come as too much of a surprise, the story is very emotional and if you’re a softy like me you will find tears flowing down your cheeks at quite a few points in this one, not only are the scenes that I was witnessing largely emotionally driven but a lot of the language used was too, I mentioned Augustus being inspiring because of his lines but that is only half the story, it is one of the most quotable films I have seen this year/the last couple of years which did leave me with a really warm feeling inside as I felt I really took something from what I watched and that I could share with others and possibly even inspire them the way it inspired me.

I did feel emotionally attached to Hazel and Augustus and found myself caring about these characters as the story developed and same goes for most of the characters to be fair which is always a good thing when it comes to this type of film and I really hope the book gives me the same feeling, I think my only criticism apart from the chemistry of the two which I have already spoke about is some elements seemed really rushed, just how the transitions were quite fast with certain things that were going on inside the story like one minute this is happening and then the feeling of “oh wait.. how did we just get from that to that? I need a better explanation” type thing. yeah only a couple of times though but they were at very important points in the plot without giving too much away… yeah how many times have I said that in this review? Hey stop counting! I see you! Anyway speaking of counting I’m going to give this one an 8/10 and would recommend it to all the hopeless romantics like myself. Good day… now where is that book?

8/10