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Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Looper) leads this biographical thriller from Oliver Stone as Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who blew the whistle on mass surveillance and leaked thousands of classified documents to the press. Co-stars Shailene Woodley (Divergent) as his girlfriend Lindsay, Zachary Quinto (Star Trek Into Darkness) and Tom Wilkinson (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) as Guardian journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, and Melissa Leo (The Fighter) as Laura Poitras, the director that documented Snowden’s leak with her Academy Award-winning film Citizenfour.

Directed by

Written by

Drama, Thriller, True Story & Biography


Rating: M Sex scenes and offensive language

USA, Germany

Official Site

Hollywood Reporter


Stone's direction is measured, methodical, and totally lacking in the fire and flamboyance that sometimes electrified and sometimes ruined his earlier films. The story moves along without any real sense of urgency or suspense.

Variety (USA)


Stone's exile in the desert of overheated irrelevance has now ended. "Snowden" isn't just the director's most exciting work since "Nixon" (1995) - it's the most important and galvanizing political drama by an American filmmaker in years.

The Guardian (UK)


Stone has made a film aimed at breaking out Snowden's story to the masses but it's made with such limpness that a swift read of his Wikipedia page will prove far more exciting.

TimeOut (US)


There was always the chance of Snowden's story coming off as an underpowered Bourne movie, but Stone somehow finds ways to make it extra boring.

New York Post


"Snowden" could have been a character portrait, but instead it's like "The Bourne Identity" minus the chases and fights, which is like a ham and cheese sandwich minus the ham and cheese.

New York Times


Mr. Stone has made an honourable and absorbing contribution to the imaginative record of our confusing times.

Rolling Stone


Joseph Gordon-Levitt is fiercely committed as Snowden, but director Oliver Stone sticks to the surface and buries the provocation.

FilmInk (Australia)


A solid, engaging real-life drama.

A bio-pic thriller about a principled romantic and modest hero

Director Oliver Stone took a risk in making Snowden (2016). Not because of America's continuing legal vendetta against exiled Edward Snowden but because the definitive film about Snowden was already made in the multi-award winning documentary CitizenFour (2014). However, Stone's film goes beyond the act of whistle-blowing to explore who Snowden is and why he leaked. To do this, he incorporates the making of the 2014 documentary into his bio-pic thriller and adds a romantic back story to humanise the world's best know computer geek.

The Snowden plotline consists of known facts and a liberal dose of creative dramatisation. It is focused on the several days during which Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was holed up in a Singapore Hotel with journalists while legal clearances were obtained for media publication of his massive leak of classified NSA intelligence. During this time, there are several flashbacks to different points in Snowden's career that trace his progression from a rising star in the intelligence industry to his disillusionment about America's surveillance of enemies and ordinary citizens.

While the Snowden story unfolds, the CitizenFour documentary is happening in the same hotel room, a clever device that adds authenticity. The flashbacks include scenes that could have been lifted from Eye in the Sky (2016) where American missiles zero-in on humans guided by cell phone signals. Surveillance technology has advanced to the point that almost anyone can be watched through common domestic devices, while agencies like the NSA publicly deny the scale of their spying operations. This is the hypocrisy that radicalised Snowden into blowing the whistle.

The clinical facts behind the Snowden story are alarming and their implications are so profound that most people cannot imagine, let alone articulate, what mass surveillance means for the future of democracies around the world. But we are talking cinema not politics, and Snowden tells a great story about an unusual individual. The back-story of his love life softens the narrative without melodrama and provides relief from the film's density of forensic detail. The two and a quarter hour long film could have been trimmed without harming the narrative but the acting and directing sustains the thriller edge of the story. Whether Stone's portrait appears too saintly or overly supportive of petitions to pardon Snowden is a matter of judgement. In any case, this is a well-made and engaging film that presents Snowden as a principled romantic and modest hero.