Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, Looper, (500) Days of Summer) portrays Edward Snowden, the brilliant intelligence officer who found himself constantly battling between the good that came from the information gathering, and the possibly unconstitutional acts the programs he used, and created, performed.
The movie shifts between Snowden secreted away in a hotel working with his press contacts planning to leak the collected data and the story of how Edward arrived in that hotel, starting with being forced out of military training due to injuries.
As Snowden tells his tale, he talks about joining the CIA and training under Deputy Director Corbin O'Brian (Rhys Ifans, The Amazing Spider-Man, Notting Hill) and Hank Forrester (Nicholas Cage, National Treasure, Kick-Ass). He also meets the love of his life, Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley, Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, The Secret Life of the American Teenager), a photographer with strong liberal leanings that will slowly alter Snowden's staunch right-wing views and lead him to see the potential problems in his job. Unfortunately, the secrets that Edward must keep from Lindsay put a massive strain on their relationship and the fact that Snowden's jobs take him all around the world just adds additional stress to their lives.
As Edward tells Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto, Star Trek, Hitman: Agent 47, Heroes), Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo, Wayward Pines, The Fighter) and Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson, Batman Begins, John Adams) these events in the hotel room, the three members of the media work to figure out the best way to disseminate the information. While they discuss everything from dumping the data onto websites to more selective releases, MacAskill pushes that British newspaper, The Guardian, be trusted with the information in order for the data to be properly conveyed by trusted journalists, particularly, Janine Gibson (Joely Richardson, The Tudors, 101 Dalmatians).
The movie's special features include a host of deleted scenes, that while interesting, weren't all that missed in the final cut of the film. There is also a featurette focusing on Oliver Stone (JFK, Platoon, Natural Born Killers) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as they talk about the movie. While both of these are good, the third special feature is a gem.
In the Snowden Q&A, Matt Zeitz (Editor-in-Chief of RogerEbert.com) hosts Oliver Stone, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley and Edward Snowden himself (via The Internet of course), as the group talks about all aspects of this film, and even going into some of Snowden's motivations and delving deeply into his belief of privacy. Clocking in at around 40 minutes, this Q&A session accompanies the Snowden film perfectly as it will help to continue any discussions that the movie itself might have started.
I really enjoyed Snowden. While the movie is very political in nature, I never felt like I was being force-fed a message, or at least not one that doesn't come naturally from the story being told. It would be hard to make a film focusing on Edward Snowden that doesn't lean heavily on the topic of privacy and if the government has a right to listen to its private citizens, but like I said, it never feels heavy handed, and seeing Joseph Gordon-Levitt play Snowden as he gradually shifts his stances on these topics really works well. If you have any interest in Edward Snowden or the topics that surround his actions, then this film is a must see.