TThe situation around Edward Snowden is much more compelling and important than that of both Mark Zuckerberg or even Steve Jobs, two recent examples of public figures whose involvement in technology that impacted society have had film biopics made about them. Both of those films were directed by Aaron Sorkin and had two very different approaches. The Social Network was gripping and interesting and, being among the first biopics set almost in the present day, was also fresh, while his take on Steve Jobs not so much. Snowden, directed by Oliver Stone, captures key points along the timeline the way The Social Network did, but the film might be more in line with a similar public information case, The Fifth Estate, which focused in Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Snowden takes place primarily in a Hong Kong hotel room in 2013 as he (played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, who at times bares an uncanny resemblance to Ed himself) speaks to reporters from the Guardian, with a series of flashbacks highlighting key points leading up to what brought them all to this point. All the right elements are in place, already giving it an edge up over the Assange flick. Where it falters is how they compare; it lacks urgency. Not enough is at stake on screen when in real life, if what Snowden himself suggests is true, everything on screen is at stake. Much of the urgency presented is what’s on the line for Snowden himself: his own professional career and eventually his own freedom, plus his ongoing relationship with Lindsey Mills (Shailene Woodley). Very important things, but it’s so much larger than that. It’s not even that I wanted to walk out of the theatre angry. I just didn’t expect to walk away feeling indifferent.