SNOWDEN looks back at the career of the engineer in computer systems who decided to reveal the methods of u.s. intelligence. In some articles, the world learned that he was being watched on a scale unimaginable. The us intelligence agencies (NSA and CIA) have not only put on listening to great leaders or personalities, ambiguous, they were intercepted, classified and intersected billion phone calls, emails, SMS, chat, Facebook, etc. – These “listenings” have been automated in order to allow the creation of giant databases that are retroactive. Before Edward Snowden did not reveal what he had learned as an engineer with the CIA and the NSA, the world thought that the surveillance was limited to the famous system in Step IV, an algorithm tasked to identify a suite of key words-sensitive (“terrorism”, for example) before triggering a recording. The engineer, therefore, reveals that the supervision of mass is at a scale much higher, and bypasses the constitution of the country that has put in place.

The subject is immediately political. Should we sacrifice our freedoms for the benefit of a possible security ? The question torments the young Edward Snowden, yet very patriotic as a teenager. Surrounded by military, it is natural that he is also oriented towards this career before to be reformed to joint problems. Political subject, but also a moral dilemma : can a person reveal what the government keeps the population ? As a “whistleblower” he plays according to the rules of democracy. But by short-circuiting the system of the election, it contravenes the rules laid down by this same population through the elites that it has elected.

No wonder thatOliver Stone has, therefore, focused on the topic. American director very critical of the vagaries of the economic superpower and the politics of his country (Platoon, Wall Street, JFK or Nixon), of course there are elective affinities between his films and the subject of the monitoring of mass. However, all of the information and issues raised in SNOWDEN are already in the documentary Citizenfour by Laura Poitras. The documentary has filmed the meeting between Edward Snowden and the journalists who wrote then articles after his revelations. Since this film documentary is at the very heart of the narrative of SNOWDEN one has to wonder what thatOliver Stone brings, “a film about a film”. With his filmography, it is expected ofOliver Stone serves his subject with a reflection on the staging.

The wrong one, and since SNOWDEN begins and ends as a biopic standard. It tells of a very linear what happened. Inevitably, the film joined the present time and are happy with the traditional cardboard boxes for us to learn what happened to the characters. The secondary roles are not far away from figuration in spite of a casting AAA (Nicolas Cage, Shailene Woodley). Only Rhys Ifans made up a role interesting enough to raise our attention. A Mentor of Snowden in the first part, it embodies progressively the threat of surveillance of mass.

“Snowden is much more the demonstration successful – but unintended – negative consequences of control, it is the denunciation failed.”

If we go into the detail of his work, one realizes that SNOWDEN employs unabashedly some of the methods close to the cinema of propaganda. The message that the “surveillance is wrong” is repeated several times, with no real counterpoint. The purpose of the film is conveyed by a montage of images front which leaves no room for outside-the-fields, or even contrechamps : a child dies in a drone attack at the other end of the world, a map shows the extent of the intercepted communications, a webcam overheard a woman in the process of undressing, etc. – These images are one-dimensional, without asperity, without possible contradiction. Even though in a documentary that these images would have the status of an archive or document, in fiction they are fully staged scenes. It is therefore expected that their artificial dimension to be offset by a reflection on their nature.

Oliver Stone has evacuated all of the complexity of its subject to draw a sort of “Monitoring of mass for dummies”, interspersed with intimate moments badly bruted. These dramatic scenes are intended to make us gain empathy for the main character. However, the personal dilemma for Snowden is over to insist more on his stuff of heroes. It never rains but it to choose its angle of attack, SNOWDEN discusses all aspects of the life of his protagonist, without almost none of asperity.

Only two moments are worthy of being retained. The first condenses the images shock previously seen in a montage alternating with a seizure of Snowden. Fairly adroit combines an existential crisis and a physical test. The second time puts them face-to-face Snowden and his spiritual father, became his opponent, in a video-conference where the wall is a screen is huge. The scene then plays on a set of scales as a function of the distance of the head of the information with its webcam. The face of the latter overwrites almost the silhouette of Snowden, who faces to the screen.

Apart from those two scenes, Oliver Stone disappoints clearly simply a kind of bare minimum. Certainly the issues raised by Snowden are paramount and the film manages to communicate crucial information to the democratic debate. But in hammering out his message without big breakthrough film, Oliver Stone serves paradoxically about it. The simplicity of the words coupled with a staging that is too smooth quickly induce a feeling of rejection.

Has wanting to be understandable by all, Oliver Stone does not realize that by handling the film is coarse, visible, and obvious. Once you realize the tricks that the director takes, it is hard not to get out of the film to shake off the role of puppet-master that he assigns to us. The curveball would have been perfect if the director had been aware of to reiterate to the viewer that the u.s. government produces against the citizen. The director, despot informed, constrained our freedom of thought “for our own good”. Just as the us government and its intelligence agencies are watching us “for our safety”. The two have perfect intentions, but their methods are open to criticism. The form of the film contradicts its message : SNOWDEN is much more the demonstration successful – but unintended – negative consequences of control, it is the denunciation failed.

Thomas Coispel

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