Snowden movie review: when fiction turns privacy issues into reality

First of all, as you may already know, we are proud supporters of the Snowden movie release in Romania. Starting November 18th, the picture hits cinemas throughout the country, but we got to see it a bit earlier to tell you whether you should also go to the cinema or not (in case you haven’t already). Be warned, however: SPOILER ALERT!


So, what happens when one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed directors and one of the digital age’s favorite real-life heroes meet? A gripping hacker thriller emerges, bound to make each of us question our own privacy and whether we really don’t have anything to hide.

Although the movie manages to quite accurately illustrate the life and struggles of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, if you want to see a factual depiction of the former CIA and NSA contractor, then you should probably try the Citizenfour documentary, directed by Laura Poitras.

On the other hand, Oliver Stone, the director who brought Platoon, The Doors, Natural Born Killers, Born on the Fourth of July, Wall Street and JFK to the big screen, dramatized the Snowden character, without affecting his humanity or credibility too much though. Because the last thing we needed was another Avengers character (what would Snowden’s super-ability be though: online invisibility?)

What to expect

Plot-wise, the movie presents, in flash-back, the life and evolution of Snowden, starting with his days in the military. He is depicted as a patriot, who really believes in his country and wants to help it in any way he possibly can. However, a health problem gets him discharged from the service, so he decides to join the CIA, and later the NSA, where his self-trained technical skills make him a great asset.

As he goes deeper into his work assignments, Snowden starts questioning the methods used by the government to solve so-called terrorist threats.

One key moment occurs when our hacker hero is asked to find some vulnerable spots in the clean past of a Pakistani banker, who is almost ruined and killed in this effort. Snowden then discovers that the NSA has access to information we would trust no one with.

The laptop camera, for instance, regardless whether the computer is on or off, supplies the government with an exclusive sneak peek into our lives. Our cellphones are another handy bugging device. Even if we believe we have nothing to hide, some NSA employee thinks otherwise and knows more about us than our closest confidant.

Upon realizing this, Snowden takes the hazardous yet righteous decision to disclose his findings to the press, in the famous Hong Kong hotel room, with the help of journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill as well as documentarian Laura Poitras.

This decision turns the former NSA contractor in an exiled fugitive, rejected by his own country and forced to live in Russia.

The #Snowden movie is just what we need to raise awareness on #OnlinePrivacy issues. Read our review for more! Click to Tweet

Playing it safe?

We don’t want to give you any spoilers, but in the end, we get to see some reassuring footage with the actual Edward Snowden, otherwise very accurately portrayed by the talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Smilingly, the real Snowden assures us that his difficult choice wasn’t so bad, even though he now must live in Russia, in hiding and has the world’s best-known intelligence agency on his back.

So, in the end, does the movie do what we need it to? Does it draw attention to an issue that should concern us all? We think it does, although some voices argue that director Oliver Stone played it much too safe.

However, there is a sequence in the film that we found particularly important. At a certain point, Snowden gets access to the private lives of Romanians, a country which should otherwise stir no interest to the US.

This means that each and every one of us is tracked and monitored and can one day be accused of something maybe said as a joke in a private conversation. Just think of the Pakistani episode mentioned above, in which an innocent man has his life overturned, just so that a CIA agent can get his much-desired promotion.

Our conclusion? Go see the movie and tell your friends about it as well. It’s important for as many people as possible to see that we do have things to hide and that we should protect them accordingly.


CyberGhost VPN partnered up with Romanian distributor Independenţa Film for the local release of the movie Snowden.

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About the author

Corina Dobre
Corina Dobre

A professional wordsmith, Corina has improved her writing skills through extensive experiences in journalism, advertising and marketing. Curious by nature, she enjoys learning foreign languages and discovering everything, as well as everyone around her.

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