Hacking into ‘Snowden’


Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden. Photo courtesy of official Snowden website.

Joselle Escobar, Staff Reporter

The life of the American computer hacker, Edward Snowden, is put into vivid motion in the newly released movie “Snowden”.

The movie brings to life events from 2004 leading up to Snowden’s release of top secret government information in 2013. The audience watches as Snowden’s career unfolds in the CIA and the NSA– U.S. Intelligence agencies.

If you are interested in watching a Hollywood-meets-politics movie, Snowden definitely gives viewers the opportunity to discuss today’s important issues, such as online security, terrorism and national defense, in a bold and emotional fashion.

The main plot of the movie follows Edward Snowden (played by Joseph Gordon Levitt) discovering the massive amount of information the government keeps on all citizens and countries around the world. His job is to counter terror attacks before they occur and monitor online acts of terrorism or threats against the government. Along with Snowden’s work life, the movie also exposes the struggles of his personal life as Snowden and his girlfriend Lindsay Mills (played by Shailene Woodley) experience rocky roads dealing with his stressful job and health issues.

In the beginning, Snowden enlists in the army in 2004 and reveals that he is a known conservative while his girlfriend is shown to be quite liberal. By the end of the movie, Snowden ultimately takes action against his own government to stand up for the individual rights of the people, an action more defined by a left winger. Although Snowden’s character develops in relation to his commitment to his government and people, the movie never extinguishes Snowden’s commitment to serve his own country and to do what he thinks is best for the citizens.

Levitt emulates Snowden’s awkward but yet charming personality in a well-developed manner. In contrast to his performance in such action movies as “The Dark Knight Rises”, “Inception” and “Third Rock from the Sun”, Levitt conveys a more intellectual drama by portraying Snowden’s high curiosity and intelligence that led him to become involved in the national government’s secrets.  These personality traits later become his defining strengths.

The defining moment through the entire movie came near the very end as the director pans the scene toward the real Edward Snowden being interviewed from an asylum in Moscow. This gave audience a sense of reality to his situation.

“Snowden” premiered two days after Edward Snowden pleaded with President Barack Obama to release and pardon him from exile in Moscow. Nearing the end of any presidential term, the sitting president is more likely to give out pardons, but the question is if Obama will sympathetically grant Edward Snowden, the known “American traitor” and hacker, a pardon before he leaves office this year.

There is critical debate about whether Snowden’s actions portrayed in the movie and real life were actually heroic or not. Many critics proclaim that Snowden released government information that gave away their strategies to search and catch online terrorists, thus marking him an American traitor.

The movie, however, portrays Snowden as an American hero who stood up for the basic principles and rights possessed by citizens—to be informed of the truth and to be able to question and challenge the government. There were still many details, political and personal, that were left out about Snowden’s controversial actions, but there was only so much of a 9-year span that the director could fit into a 2 hour and 14 minute movie.

No matter what side of the online security debate you are on or if you don’t know anything about Edward Snowden, the movie entertains by itself through the dynamic life of a known figure still living in exile today. “Snowden” is a must watch for all political or history buffs looking for an interesting Hollywood spin to an important national conversation.