Saturday, September 17, 2016

Snowden [2016]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB () (3 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (J. CHang) review (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review  

Snowden [2016] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Oliver Stone along with Kieran Fitzgerald based on the books The Time of the Octopus [GR] by Anatoly Kucherena [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb] and The Snowden Files [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Luke Harding [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is a film that's destined to be controversial simply for the persons involved.  Both Edward Snowden himself (whose demeanor was IMHO captured _spot-on_ in the film, and arguably to Oscar nomination heights, by Joseph Gordon Levitt) and director Oliver Stone have their (often quite reflexive) "haters."  Yet, I admit that I both like and honestly _admire_ both of these inconvenient / disturbing messengers.

Everything that I have seen / read of Snowden indicates to me that he was a sincere and _measured_ "brainiac" who saw what was being done in terms of (near universal) surveillance at the NSA and thought (rightly!!) that _at least the American public / world ought to know_.  I'm not excited that he finds himself in Russia.  I do think that despite his best efforts _some_ secrets above and beyond his control will (or already have) gone to the Russians. 

But after seeing this film, I would like to see Jennifer Lawrence and Selena Gomez, et al, make a "Hollywood Star" CLASS ACTION FOIA inquiry into _simply_ "the meta-data" of the NSA / CIA's "searches" over the past 5-10-15 years, to simply get a sense of HOW MANY TIMES _THEY_ were "searched" by said "NSA / CIA geeks" using their "google search OF ALL" search engines.  For this would be _the simplest_ explanation of _how_ these Stars' iPads, tablets, cell phones were "hacked" for all their private photos ...  Honestly, who (most) else (outside of the world's intelligence communities) would even know where / how to look?

And yes, after seeing this film, one would be INSANE to not have a piece of electrical tape over one's "comes installed in your laptop" webcam.  I'VE HAD SAID PIECE OF ELECTRICAL TAPE OVER MY "PART OF THE EQUIPMENT" WEBCAM on my Laptop since 2 days after buying it (a dirt cheap Dell model that I've come to call a "NSA SPECIAL" :-).  I did so because 2 days into buying it, SUDDENLY a light started shining at my face from my laptop (I didn't even know up to that point that a webcam was there... it didn't even come with CD Drive, that's how simple / bare-bones it was) and I could not shut it off.  

Then, "Julius Caesar" / "Richard III" Shakespearean in style as Oliver Stone [wikip] [IMDb] has been in his films, I do believe that he does _nail_ the essential personality traits of the characters in his biopics.  Indeed, I do believe he absolutely _nails_ the essences of the key personalities of the G.W. Bush Administration in "W" [2008] in a way that both helps one understand "what happened" during that Administration and arguably makes one even feel sorry for some of the key characters present.  

SO ... in this film we're presented with Stone's understanding of the "essential Edward Snowden" presenting him as both a patriot and a geek who does come to see THE POWER that HE (and OTHERS AROUND HIM at the NSA/CIA) had come to have (the "power to KNOW ALL" about ... just about EVERYBODY) and becomes deeply disturbed by it.  Yes, OTHERS were not as concerned... Even his own girlfriend (again played quite credibly / honestly by Shailene Woodley) in as much as she knew what Ed was part-of at his job (and she did not know much), was NOT particularly concerned that the NSA could have 'pictures of her boobs...' ... she was a young 20-something spritely / generally cheerful photog ;-).  But Edward Snowden KNEW that this was entirely possible, even probable, and he was ONE GUY (and it only takes one) WHO REALLY BELIEVED THAT "PEOPLE OUGHT TO KNOW" (that this kind of surveillance REALLY WAS HAPPENING). 

The rest of the story follows.  It plays out like a "Jason Bourne for geeks" ;-).  But the warning of the story is ABSOLUTELY CLEAR: The NSA (and OTHER intelligence services around the world) IS / ARE WATCHING YOU ... WATCH OUT FOR WHEN THEY DECIDE _TO ACT_ / TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WHAT THEY'VE SEEN ...


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