Movie review: Snowden

Movie reviews

Hi!

While everyone else is already starting to review Rogue One, I’m still catching up on films that were only just released in the UK. Sully came out 3 months late, and Snowden followed suit. So, let’s review it!

IMDb summary: The NSA’s illegal surveillance techniques are leaked to the public by one of the agency’s employees, Edward Snowden, in the form of thousands of classified documents distributed to the press.

Writing

Although I was alive when the main events depicted in this film came to light (it was 2013), I don’t necessarily remember watching or reading any media coverage of them. However, before watching  the film, I did know who Snowden was, so I must have heard or read something back in 2013.

The film’s script was written by Kieran Fitzgerald and the director of the film Oliver Stone, based on books The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena. The movie’s main narrative was told in a flashback form. The filmed picked up days before the events of 2013 and told the different parts of Snowden’s live and depicted the different jobs he did in the flashbacks. The movie also did a good job with the writing for its main character: the film showed his transition from conservative to a liberal in a believable way and also humanized Snowden, by including his private personal story together with the public professional one.

I, personally, always had a stance on what Snowden did and this film didn’t change that, only reaffirmed it. Having said that, I still think that the movie fairly treated both sides of the story and didn’t necessarily have hidden agenda beneath. I did enjoy the discussion about the surveillance and the raising of the question whether it was for safety or for control. The ideas on privacy and patriotism were also interesting. I especially liked the line that stated that the government does not equal the country, which was an extremely important idea for me to remember because of all the events of 2016.

I also appreciated the fact that the movie showed how Snowden’s work had an impact on his health and relationships. The work of spies is only glamorous and cool when it’s fictional. Lastly, the movie’s story was a bit scary as well as angering because it represented the reality that we all live in. Its cautionary message should not go unheard of.

Directing

Oliver Stone, who is known for making politically and economically focused films, both documentaries and narrative pictures, directed Snowden and created another solid drama. The film was compelling and well constructed. The pacing was a bit slow, but I was intrigued enough by the story to let the slight dragging slide. Visually, one of my favorite sequences of the film was the CGI montage of the surveillance connections that ended up in Snowden’s eye. It was kinda an obvious way of explaining the mass scale of surveillance but it was done well. I do believe that this story had to be told and what better way that to tell it than in a mainstream movie – a medium that has probably the widest reach.

If you enjoyed Snowden and would like to see a similar movie, may I suggest Eye in the Sky – that film goes into more detail about the actual surveillance in the field and shows the inner working and links between the different organizations.

Acting

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, Looper, The Walk) played Edward Snowden and completely lost himself in the role, as usual. His voice acting was unbelievable too. Edward Snowden also appeared as himself at the end of the movie, and I did appreciate this real-world tie-in. Fun fact, I almost attended the university that he is the symbolic rector of – University of Glasgow.
  • Shailene Woodley (The DescendantsThe Fault in Our Stars, Divergent) as Lindsay Mills was amazing. This is her best performance I have seen yet.
  • Zachary QuintoScott Eastwood, and even Nicolas Cage had small supporting roles in the film. I was happy to see Quinto in another movie, as I have become a fan of his after Star Trek. Eastwood also did a good job but I still think that he works better in the supporting roles rather than in the lead – didn’t like him much in The Longest Ride but he was fine in the tiny role in Suicide Squad. Even Cage was great, although, I can only stomach him in small doses.

In short, Snowden is a well-made film that tells an important story. The acting and the directing are good, but I think that the writing is the best aspect of the film.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Snowden trailer

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Movie review: The Walk

Movie reviews

Hello!

Sorry for the flood of movie reviews on my blog these past few days, but I promise you will get a break after this review. For now, let’s review The Walk – a film about walking on a high wire a few hundred meters in the air. To me, this seems like a ludicrous idea, since I easily trip and fall while walking on a solid ground.

IMDb summary: In 1974, high-wire artist Philippe Petit recruits a team of people to help him realize his dream: to walk the immense void between the World Trade Center towers.

Directing

The reason why I want to start this review with the director – Robert Zemeckis – is because he is the reason that I went to see this film. As you may know, my country of origin is Lithuania (I’ve moved to the UK a few months ago) and Zemeckis has Lithuanian roots, so I felt obliged to support my fellow Lithuanian or half Lithuanian. Moreover, he is a pioneer of visual effects and has made a lot of amazing films including Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away. However, I do not believe that The Walk is his best film or even close to this.

I have mixed feelings regarding this movie. On one hand, some CGI effects looked really fake (the towers at the beginning and the painfully obvious green screen during the exposition inserts – I wonder how did these scenes looked on IMAX) while other sequences were breathtaking (the actual walk or more accurately the walks). The ending sequence with an imaginary wire and the NY skyline dissolving into the black was my favorite shot. The black and white opening with some colorful details was an interesting choice as well. I just wish that this movie was edited more neatly so that beginning and ending would have had a bit more coherence.

Story

The Walk’s screenplay was based on real life events from 1974 when the real life Philippe Petit performed his dangerous and illegal stunt. Zemeckis himself, with the help of Christopher Browne, wrote the script, which could have benefited from the revision (the same with the visuals). Film’s story was really unfocused during the first half of the film and did not engage the viewer fully. It felt both rushed (characters did not receive any development) and the way too slow (lots of time passed with nothing really happening). There was no indication of the passage of time, so the audience couldn’t really tell how much time has passed between scenes – a day or a year? However, as much as I critic this film, I have to admit that the motion picture really shined during the second half when it found its focus: the preparation for walk sequence was even more interesting than the actual walk(s) scene because it had amazing suspense, which later carried on to the actual performance.

Though, while the 2nd part of the film was very enjoyable, some questionable choices were taking me out of the film throughout the whole run-time. For example, the exposition on top of the Statue of Liberty and the breaking of the 4th wall seemed like unnecessary and distracting additions to the film. Moreover, while I loved the European flavor of the film, their explanation of why the characters should speak English instead of French seemed quite stupid to me. Also, the fact that the character of Petit only did a few walks and trained for a bit and was prepared for the walk between the World Trade Center Towers was a bit unbelievable. However, according to google, World Trade Center Walk was only the 4th walk that Petit did IRL, so the movie stuck to the reality in that case. Lastly, while this film was based on real life events and might have wanted to stay as truthful to the real story as possible, some of the details of the plot were quite weird. For instance, why would you allow a guy who has a fear of heights on your team if you are planning to walk on a wire hundreds of meters in the air? It just seemed to be an unnecessary obstacle for Petit’s purpose and the comedic relief that it added was not worth it.

Acting

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit was the star of this film. I have always been on the fence when it comes to Gordon-Levitt as an actor and I still remain on the fence. He has done some great films but he never really stuck out to me in any of them. I also had quite a lot of issues with his character in this film. I don’t know whether real-life Petit is like this, but the film’s Petit seemed like a very selfish and arrogant man (thief and troublemaker) and just and unlikable character who the viewer had to force himself/herself to like and root for. Furthermore, the way he held himself above the circus artists was not a nice thing to do. Also, why couldn’t they just cast a French actor to play this role? Levitt looks nothing like real life Petit, so it was definitely not the reason why he got the part. Also, I think they CGI-ied his face a bit but that just made it look weird and fake. However, the fakest thing of it all was the Gordon-Levitt’s accent, which took some time to get used to. Lastly, I would be interested to know, how much of the actual wire walking did Gordon-Levitt do and who was his stunt man.
  • Ben Kingsley as Papa Rudy and Charlotte Le Bon as Annie Allix were the two supporting characters, which received some development and I wish we could have spent more time with them since they seemed to be interesting. What mind boggles me the most, is the fact that they managed to cast a French actress in a lead female role but not the male one. Why? Speaking about Kingsley, I mostly remember him as Marvel’s The Mandarin, though he has done some better films than Iron Man 3. The last Le Bon’s film, which I’ve watched, was The Hundred-Foot Journey – I quite liked it. Plus, I have found out that she voiced Joy in the French version of Inside Out.
  • Clément Sibomy, James Badge Dale, César Domboy, Ben Schwartz, Benedict Samuel, and Steve Valentine also had supporting roles in the film. Sadly, they looked like really one-dimensional caricatures of real life people.

To sum up, The Walk was an okay film and so far – my least favorite film of the fall and the least likely candidate for any awards. The plot was messy, the visuals could have been neater and the choices for the actors and their characters – questionable. However, the suspense of the Walk(s) and the CGI of the final sequence made up for the previous shortcomings at least a bit.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: The Walk trailer

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