Gala Presentations

Snowden

Oliver Stone

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in this real-life political thriller from Oscar winner Oliver Stone, co-starring Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Timothy Olyphant and Nicolas Cage.

Patriot, dissident, or traitor? Few contemporary public figures are as contentious as National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. His decision to leak classified information, exposing the astonishing breadth of the NSA's global surveillance programs, alerted the world to how seriously its privacy had been compromised. Snowden's story is a controversial one — and there is no one better suited to tackle it than Oliver Stone.

Based on the Guardian book by Luke Harding, and Anatoly Kucherena's Time of the Octopus, this powerful film — part biopic, part fact-based espionage thriller — follows Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) from the army to the CIA, and eventually to his post as an analyst for the NSA. As the plot progresses, we are plunged ever deeper into a labyrinth of eerie revelations: in a world teeming with devices, every one of them has the capacity to monitor our activities — whether or not we have committed any wrongdoing.

Technology is intrinsic to Snowden's story, and Stone brilliantly reflects its ubiquity and velocity in his characteristically addled, multi-tiered approach. But Snowden's experience cannot be understood without a complex portrait of the man himself, and Gordon-Levitt more than rises to the occasion. His Snowden is a bright, sensitive young man seeking to serve his country, but completely unaware of the sinister secrets he will come to unearth. Gordon-Levitt is accompanied on this bracing journey by Tom Wilkinson (also appearing at this year's Festival in Denial) as The Guardian journalist Ewen MacAskill, Melissa Leo as documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, and Zachary Quinto as lawyer and journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Snowden is a film about the brave new world we've come to inhabit — a world many of us did not know existed until Edward Snowden had the courage to tell us.

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