Welcome to the House of Crouse. At it’s very core Snowden, the story of Ed Snowden, an American computer wiz who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency to The Guardian, is about privacy, and how much of it you can expect to enjoy every time you turn on your computer or pick up your mobile phone. Learn more in the HoC conversations with director Oliver Stone and the film’s stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley. C’mon in and sit a spell… but leave your cell phone in the microwave.
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies the long awaited sequel to “The Blair Witch Project,” the biopic “Snowden,” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the return of Renée Zellweger’s most famous character in “Bridget Jones’s Baby.”
Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, including the found footage frights of “Blair Witch,” the rom com delights of “Bridget Jones’s Baby” and”Snowden,” Oliver Stone’s biographical look at one of the decade’s most controversial figures.
If there ever was a story tailor made for Oliver Stone’s sensibilities, “Snowden” is it. Polarizing in the extreme, Ed Snowden, an American computer wiz who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency to The Guardian, was called a traitor by Donald Trump and a hero by the New Yorker. Two hours into this biopic it’s not hard to see which side of the fence Stone falls on.
It’s 2003 when we first meet future whistleblower Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) he’s a grunt in the US Army struggling through basic training. The deeply patriotic high-school dropout wants to serve his country but his body doesn’t cooperate. Honourably discharged for medical reasons he turns to the CIA, hoping to find meaningful work as a computer specialist and because, “it sounds really cool to have a top security clearance.”
Hired on, he learns the tools of today’s warfare. “The modern battlefield is everywhere,” he’s told while designing and building computer systems he believes will keep his country safe. Meanwhile the secretive nature of his work is slowly driving a wedge between he and girlfriend Lindsay (Shailene Woodley), a liberal leaning photographer who doesn’t always support Ed’s views but always supports him.
Over the next decade his efforts to prevent terrorists and cyber attacks leads him down a rabbit hole of intrigue and double-dealings. Partially responsible for running a dragnet on the whole world he helps gather information—using cell phone and computer cameras—on regular everyday citizens as well as the baddies and begins to question his mandate. The NSA, he says is tracking the cell phones of everyone. “Not just terrorists or countries,” he says, “but us.”
In June 2013 he decides to go public by leaking classified information from the National Security Agency to The Guardian. “I just want to get the data to the media so people can decide whether I’m wrong,” he says, “or if the government is wrong.”
A title card at the beginning of “Snowden” reads, “The following is a dramatization of events that occurred between 2004 and 2013.” That gives director Stone ample leeway to tell the story his way. In other words, this ain’t a documentary. It is clear he is on Snowden’s side, that he doesn’t see him as a traitor or snitch but a hero. His thesis seems to be that you don’t have to agree with your politicians to be a patriot. Stone supports his view visually—Snowden literally comes out of the darkness and into the light when he leaves the NSA building for the last time—and through the actions and words of several of his characters. Rhys Ifans plays a CIA trainer/master manipulator who feeds Snowden’s naïve patriotism with defence mantras. “Most Americans don’t want freedom,” he preaches, “they want security.” Later Snowden’s NSA supervisor Trevor (Scott Eastwood) argues that a job like the one Snowden is doing, can’t be criminal “if you’re working for the government.”
But hey, this isn’t CNN or Fox News, it’s a big screen entertainment and on that score it works. Gordon-Levitt transforms into a monotone über nerd, equal parts sweetness and paranoia. What he lacks in warmth Woodley more than makes up for, handing in a performance that is all emotion and concern.
When Ifans leaves a video conference call with the sign off, “I’ll see you soon,” those simple words take on a sinister feel when it is clear that he really can see you, whether you know it or not. Stone may not be able to shape the way you feel about Ed Snowden, but if nothing else he’ll make you want to cover the camera on your computer.
At it’s very core, Snowden is about privacy and how much of it you can expect to enjoy every time you turn on your computer or pick up your mobile phone.
The story of Edward Snowden — an American computer whiz who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency to The Guardian — has been reimagined for the big screen and premiered at TIFF on Friday.
“Unfortunately,” says controversial director Oliver Stone, “Edward Snowden has warned us, more than once, about privacy and he says in the movie the next generation won’t know what privacy is.”
Snowden uncovered widespread snooping by the U.S. government that may have violated the civil liberties of millions of people. Zachary Quinto, who plays journalist Glenn Greenwald in the film, says working on Snowden made him think differently about even simple Internet searches.
“I became more aware of our vulnerability while working on this film and took specific measures to protect myself in ways I hadn’t before,” he said.
“I had this experience the other night. I was shopping for a washer and dryer online. I was Googling the consumer ratings. I left that search and went to another website and immediately the pop up ads on this other website, which had nothing to do with consumer reports or shopping, were about washers and dryers. What we are willing to sacrifice in our privacy without even thinking about it for convenience sake, what we’re willing to give up in our own freedoms and interests just in sitting down at our computers is shocking.
“You can take precautions. You can take steps to enact two-step verifications and put tape over your laptop (camera) and strengthen your passwords but all you need to do is shop for appliances and you are exposing yourself to some kind of tracking, a collection of data.”
Co-star Shailene Woodley, who plays the whistleblowing title character’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills, takes simple precautions to ensure privacy. “I have a Band Aid over my computer (camera),” she says. “Privacy is a privilege now and it is only a privilege if you are privy to the fact that it is a privilege because it is not something you inherently have as a human being in 2016.”
What Joseph Gordon-Levitt has to say about ‘Band-Aids’
“Working on this movie made me much more thoughtful about how the whole internet works. Everyone has asked me about the Band-Aid over the webcam. I think that is a weird metaphor, an unintentional metaphor. ‘Oh yeah, this will fix it,’ but I don’t think it will,” said star Joseph Gordon-Levitt about people putting Band-Aids over their web cams to ensure privacy.