The story of NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who stole government files and revealed mass surveillance programs to the world, should be a perfect fit for paranoid political provocateur Oliver Stone. The conspiracy-minded writer and director of "JFK," "Nixon," and "Wall Street" uses his films to hold power structures accountable.
That's where "Snowden" works best as the young CIA worker is exposed to secret programs with shocking abilities to monitor the public. And the movie raises serious questions about what we're willing to allow in the name of safety and whether that's even the real goal of these programs.
But the movie drags a bit when it's trying to be a straight-forward biography of Snowden, who isn't all that interesting despite an excellent performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Snowden's relationship with his girlfriend played by Shailene Woodley is a focal point because her liberal political leanings end up swaying him from his conservative stances - possibly influencing his decisions later.
But the relationship angle and other bio points end up distracting from the political intrigue.
Whether Snowden is a traitor, a patriot or something in between is not the point of this review. But it's notable the movie is not at all interested in examining the fallout from his actions. In that way, Stone takes the easy way out. To him, Snowden is as pure as the driven snow, and that's made clear in the film's final moments showing us the real Snowden lit up like an angel.
In the end, blind hero worship is a bore.