TIFF 2016: ‘Snowden’ Will Open Your Eyes All Over Again

Who’s Behind It

Directed by Oliver Stone, written by Kieran Fitzgerald and Oliver Stone, based on the books by Luke Harding and Anatoly Kucherena.

Who’s In It

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Rhys Ifans, Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo, Tom Wilkinson.


Who’ll Love It

Anyone looking to learn more about the incredibly widespread surveillance of private citizens—and be entertained in the process.

What’s It About

A young patriot inspired to fight for his country, Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) joins the military, but soon finds that the CIA is a more suitable home for his greatest strength: hacking. Meanwhile, he develops a romance with Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley), a progressive woman who opens his eyes to several troubling realities about the American political system. However, the most eye-opening revelations emerge when he transitions to the National Security Agency and discovers all kinds of shady programs that invade the privacy of people all over the world, in order to serve the interests of the rich and powerful. As Snowden’s understanding of these programs grows, he decides to put himself in grave danger by going public with thousands of classified NSA documents.


Why You Should See It

A return to form for both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Oliver Stone, Snowden gives the director a rare opportunity to tap into the many strengths of his early ’90s heyday. While he doesn’t show the command of the medium evident in films like JFK and Nixon, it’s thrilling to see all kinds of suppressed truths sneak through in a relatively mainstream entertainment. It should also be noted that, in spite of the familiarity of Snowden’s story, Stone doesn’t simply rehash the narrative from Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour. Instead, he takes us inside the NSA, bringing to life a complex, contradictory culture, while also making this now-familiar story suspenseful all over again. Unfortunately, Stone’s efforts to spread his message to mainstream viewers result in some creaky conventionality and he doesn’t go deep enough to ignite full-blown outrage, but this is a rare Hollywood movie that confronts the complexities of the real world—with engrossing results.

When You Can See It

Friday, September 9 at 9:30pm (Roy Thompson Hall); Saturday, September 10 at 12:00pm (Roy Thompson Hall). Tickets available here. Opens wide September 16. Check out the trailer below.