Whether you consider him a whistleblower doing a public service or a traitor who betrayed his country (or even if you have mixed feelings), there’s probably no one in the United States who doesn’t have a strong opinion on Edward Snowden. The man behind the 2013 leak of classified NSA documents exists more as an icon than a person in popular consciousness, something Oliver Stone’s biopic Snowden aims to change. The film, which details the years leading up to Snowden’s decision to go forward with the leak, focuses heavily on his growing relationship with girlfriend Lindsay Mills (who currently lives with him in Russia). Among the moments depicted is their first date, a portion of which you can see in the clip above, set during a Washington, D.C. demonstration against military actions in the War on Terror.
I saw Snowden during Comic-Con and to be honest, I can’t say the film provides any greater understanding of his motivations for leaking the NSA documents or his political philosophy than already exists in the public record. In some ways it makes them more confusing. But it does significantly humanize him, and the strongest scenes – both acting and storytelling-wise – involve him and Mills as portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley. It’s particularly strong the way her connected DC-area upbringing and attendant cynicism, along with her staunch liberalism are contrasted to Snowden’s somewhat naive patriotism and somewhat conservative beliefs.
Gordon-Levitt and Woodley star alongside Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Nicolas Cage, Scott Eastwood, Joely Richardson, Timothy Olyphant, and Ben Schnetzer. Directed by Stone from a script he co-wrote with Kieran Fitzgerald, Snowden hits theaters September 16.